Police Gazette Cocktail

A new addition to my list of favorites. The recipe’s from William Grimes’ unspeakably excellent Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail, the reading of which is the best and quickest way I know of to gain a well-rounded education about the fine points of drinking over the past 200 or so years.

Police Gazette Cocktail

  • 3 ounces whiskey [ed. note: Woohoo!]
  • 2 dashes French vermouth
  • 3 dashes simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters (Fee Bros. Old-Fashioned Aromatic Bitters lend a nice, spicy touch to this drink)
  • 2 dashes curacao
  • 2 dashes maraschino liqueur

Stir with ice & strain into cocktail glass; garnish with a cherry.

Grimes credits the drink to the New Police Gazette Bartender’s Guide from 1901 (in the book, he says the magazine ran stories about lurid crimes, along with bits on boxing and, of course, the finer points of saloons). This recipe was apparently submitted as part of a regular contest the gazette held for cocktail recipes.

I’ve had the book for years (Grimes’, that is), but didn’t sample this number until just this week. I’ve tried the drink a few ways–twice with Wild Turkey 101 proof bourbon, and once with Weller 12 year old bourbon. I love the Weller in general, but I think for this drink’s characteristics–the very slight touches of a lot of different ingredients, added to a large dose of one primary ingredient–a muscular whiskey like the higher proof Wild Turkey makes more sense. (Though, when you have three ounces of Wild Turkey in front of you, just barely touched with seasoning, you can almost hear it cracking its knuckles in the glass as it sizes you up.)

I’d like to try it with a rye whiskey next–given the 1901 birthdate, that’s probably how this drink was originally concocted–but the only high-proof rye available in Seattle is Wild Turkey, and I’m not a huge fan of that bottling (though their bourbon I love)–guess I have to hold out for a bottle of the bonded Rittenhouse, which apparently is showing up in various places around NYC. [ed. note: since the initial posting, I've made this several times with old, reliable Old Overholt--only 80 proof, but a nice friend to have in the liquor cabinet, nonetheless. Verdict: mmmmmmm. Lightly spicy; you can see this drink's handlebar mustache quivering with pleasure.]

The last two times I’ve made this drink (once each with Weller and Wild Turkey), I’ve sized back the whiskey to two or so ounces, both to let the other flavors have more of a say in the drink, and also to keep myself from being knocked over backwards by just one cocktail. Even with this reduction, the flavor of the whiskey is still very up-front, so I think this is a good cocktail to break out your decent stuff for. The other ingredients all kind of meld together in the flavor profile–there’s no strong funk of maraschino, for example–and work like accessories to the whiskey, like a flower in the bourbon’s buttonhole and a diamond ring on its pinky.

11 Responses to Police Gazette Cocktail

  1. [...] First off, a big tip of the hat to The Cocktail Chronicles for introducing me to this one. Paul’s much more informative exploration of the Police Gazette can be found here. I reproduce the recipe (as I make it) because if I thought it would help, I’d put up billboards, run off flyers, and write a song or two. It’s really that good. Spicy, herbal, bitter, sweet … complex but perfectly unified, strong but soft-edged. An ideal cocktail, and yet not in the CocktailDB. I may have to start a petition. [...]

  2. I’d like to know if anyone has heard of a drink called a “Hannah Elias.” I have seen only one mention of it, from a piece of memoir of sorts called “The Goldfish: being the Confession of a Successful Man” by Arthur Train (1928) although the time period being referred to in the specific passage is betwen 1903 and 1915 or so. Train was a novelist and lawyer, having served as an assistant DA in NYC at the turn the 20th century. I am writing a bok about Hannah Elias and Train was an ass’t DA when her case was before the court.

  3. French vermouth? I’ve only made this with sweet vermouth. You really use dry vermouth?

  4. Yep, French vermouth. That’s what it says in the recipe, and it does give a small degree of drying action considering all the liqueurs and so on in there. I’ll have to try it with sweet some time; sounds intriguing.

  5. Well, thanks, and I’ll have to try this version. Since this is so similar to a Manhattan, I never questioned using sweet vermouth. Excellent blog; thnx.

  6. You are right. I have changed to dry vermouth and confess this is a different, and better, cocktail. Thnx again for your excellent advice.

  7. No problem. That’s what I’m here for.

    And I did try it with sweet, as an experiment — Carpano Antica in this case. Not the same creature, but still a very pleasant way to moisten the clay. I may have to break that out again sometime.

  8. Just looking over this recipe,…looks amazing but I have to ask,…any accurate measurements for the “dashes”? I have David Wondrich’s voice in my head when I say I hate seeing dashes used for anything but bitters. I would experiment, but Bourbon is expensive up here in Canada and I’d hate to pour any down the sink. Any help appreciated!

  9. I’m an unreformed dasher, but I get the point. For something like this, I’ll use a barspoon; lean on the scant side for 2 dashes, and fill ‘er up for three. It does take a little trial and error, but it’s a pleasant enough education.

  10. Thanks, Paul! I was about to start experimenting when I saw your reply. I’ll make this a few times with Rye, and THEN I’ll switch to Bourbon (the opposite of your trials!). I might even approach it like an East India cocktail, since the ingredient and ratios seem somewhat similar,…

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