Golden Dawn revisited

Okay. Maybe that whole idea of “Perfect Balance” had some element of wishful thinking about it. As I mentioned when I first approached the Golden Dawn, the idea of a cocktail composed of equal parts–five of them, at that–was compelling and, ultimately, irresistible.

But as a couple of folks noted in the comments, as intriguing as this recipe from Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails may be, the result is still quite sweet. Too sweet, some would–and did–say, and after thinking about it further, I’ve grudgingly come to the same conclusion.

But all is not lost with the Golden Dawn; a quick survey of the bookshelf shows two similar cocktails of the same name, both of which are worth investigating*. Both recipes come from Ted Saucier’s Bottoms Up, an excellent (and risque) cocktail manual from 1951. Each drink was an award-winner in its day, and both eliminate Cointreau from the mix, which results in a much less sweet drink (though it does obliterate that five-part harmony that originally caught my attention).

Golden Dawn (version #2)
created at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London, and recipient of the top prize at the International Cocktail Competition in 1930

  • 1/4 gin
  • 1/4 Calvados / applejack
  • 1/4 orange juice
  • 1/4 apricot brandy

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a cherry and drizzle a dash of grenadine into the bottom of the glass.

Golden Dawn (version #3)
created by Walter Madigan, beverage editor for the Hotel Gazette; runner-up, International Cocktail Contest, 1939

  • 2 parts gin
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 part apricot brandy
  • dash grenadine

Shake & strain into chilled cocktail glass

Removing the Cointreau really tones down the drink’s sweetness; personally, I prefer version #2, as the Calvados adds some extra complexity to the drink. Keep in mind, though, that orange juice really lacks the sharp tartness of lemon or lime, so even with the reduced liqueur, the Golden Dawn will always have an element of sweetness about it–it’s simply in the drink’s nature. (Your choice of orange and grenadine type will also affect the drink’s sweetness–even when using dashes, a homemade grenadine results in drinks remarkably less cloying than those made with a commercial brand like Rose’s.)

So if you’re still brushing your teeth from the first encounter with the Golden Dawn, one of these variations may suit your needs. If not, well…we gave it an honest try.

* Bottoms Up also lists a third Golden Dawn recipe, this one not even remotely like the others:

1/2 jigger lime juice
1 jigger orange juice
1/2 jigger Jamaica rum
1 jigger bourbon
1 teaspoon sugar

Place in electric mixer; strain into hollow-stemmed champagne glass which has teaspoon grenadine in bottom of stem.

4 Responses to Golden Dawn revisited

  1. I’m not much of a drinking man, but when I reached drinking age, my Dad presented me with his copy of “Bottoms Up.”

    When my daughter took up the art of mixology, I showed her the book, and she replied “hey, this is full of drinks that no one makes anymore.”

    Ted Saucier’s book is not only profusely and risque, but it also gave a pretty good idea of the urban nightclub scene in the early 1950s.

    Every hotel had its watering hole and was a gathering spot for the elite — and every hotel had its own specialty drink.

    .. a reminder of a bygone age….I’m going to have to try to make some of those drinks sometime.

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