Star Cocktail

A sample cocktail from George J. Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks. I don’t know if this is a Kappeler original, and I haven’t checked to see if it’s in other cocktail manuals, but this one caught my eye as something period-appropriate, with the added benefit that I happen to have the ingredients on hand.

Here’s Kappeler’s wording on the recipe, followed by my recipe (in my usual format):

Fill a mixing-glass half-full fine ice, add two dashes gum-syrup, three dashes Peyschaud [sic] or Angostura bitters, one-half jigger apple brandy, one-half jigger Italian vermouth. Mix, strain into cocktail-glass, twist small piece lemon-peel on top.

And my preparation:

Star Cocktail

  • 1 ounce apple brandy (I used Laird’s Applejack)
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s or Angostura bitters (I used Peychaud’s)
  • 2 dashes gum syrup

Stir with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass; garnish with lemon twist.

A couple of notes: first, at the beginning of the book’s recipe section, Kappeler defines a jigger as holding two ounces–this is different from the contemporary definition, in which a jigger contains one and one-half ounces–hence the measurements in my recipe.

Second, Kappeler calls for apple brandy–I assume that in 1895, the type of apple brandy he’d most readily have on hand would be domestic (ie, not Calvados), and quite possibly Laird’s (as they were certainly in production during that time). While Laird’s applejack is not currently a “pure” apple brandy, as it contains a substantial portion of neutral grain spirits, in 1895 it was still composed purely of apple distillate, and it’s the closest thing I have on hand to a domestic apple brandy. Should you have access to Laird’s bonded apple brandy, you should certainly use it in this drink (it’d probably be nice with a Calvados, too).

The Star is a very gentle cocktail, with the slight bitterness of the vermouth nicely touched by the fullness of the Peychaud’s. I think the applejack fades into the background a bit too much–all the more reason to break out the real apple brandy deal when giving this one a try.

4 Responses to Star Cocktail

  1. Was there only ever one edition/ printing of Kappeler’s book? i.e. just 1895.

    I say this as I found an 1897 newspaper reference to the Star Cocktail being a new cocktail, along with the Rob Roy, at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York.

    Was the Rob Roy in Kappelers 1895 book?

  2. Paul says:

    I don’t know if there are editions of Kappeler’s book other than the 1895. In this edition, there’s no listing for a Rob Roy, and a quick browse through didn’t turn up any Rob Roys masquerading under other names.

  3. [...] But Laird’s applejack is only 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits.  I learned from these fine folks that this drink hails from 1895.  And while Laird’s was around, back then their applejack was [...]

  4. [...] Christmas Eve I’m making up a batch of what I think is one of the best fireside drinks, the Star Cocktail. I take a couple liberties with my variation, but it’s what tastes best to me and [...]

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