Gettin’ Jerry With It, Part III: Japanese Cocktail

Thanks to Robert Hess for reminding me of this drink in a post over at The Spirit World.

As Robert points out, the Japanese Cocktail is one of only ten “cocktails” listed in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 The Bartender’s Guide. It’s unfortunate that this drink has fallen by the wayside–its flavor is deep and evocative, yet it’s not so complex to scare off less-seasoned cocktail drinkers.

The crucial ingredient here is orgeat syrup. A key component in a few other drinks–the mai tai is an example that readily springs to mind–orgeat is simply almond syrup with a faint touch of orange flower water. Monin makes an agreeable version, though, for do-it-yourselfers, Darcy lists a recipe over at The Art of Drink.

The composition of the Japanese Cocktail evinces the nineteenth-century sweet tooth; if you’re into sweet drinks, try the recipe as listed, but I’d suggest toning down on the orgeat until you reach an agreeable point.

Oh, and the name? The story goes that Thomas created this cocktail in honor of a visit to New York by the Japanese delegation. In a globalized world, the Japanese Cocktail is a reminder of a time when such things seemed so rare and exotic.

Japanese Cocktail

  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1/2 ounce orgeat (or to taste)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir with ice, strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

6 Responses to Gettin’ Jerry With It, Part III: Japanese Cocktail

  1. Rick says:

    Have you had any of the Fee Brother’s cordial syrups? I was thinking of placing an order there, because they had a few:

    orgeat
    falernum – I’d like to pick up a real bottle of this when I’m out of state and make it sometime, but I thought I’d give it a try in the mean time
    grenadine – Always homemade, but I thought I’d give theirs a whirl
    pineapple syrup – This is used almost profusely in The Gentleman’s Companion.

    Thoughts? Am I missing anything?

  2. Paul says:

    I haven’t explored Fee’s syrups. I actually just picked up a bottle of their falernum last week, but haven’t opened it yet, and I nearly bought a bottle of the American Beauty grenadine, but the label didn’t list any actual pomegranate juice, so I decided to stick with the homemade. From what I’ve read, it’s supposed to be better than Rose’s, so that’s an endorsement.

    For orgeat, I usually use Monin or Torani–they’re just so easy to find in Seattle–and I haven’t explored pineapple syrup, but have meant to for some time. Let me know if you decide to buy some–I’m curious to know the results.

  3. Rick says:

    I must say, first, that Fee Brothers is the model of what I wish every company would aspire to in the realm of customer service. Having no distribution points in my area, they were more than happy to ship the syrups and bitters my way. When I asked if I should just give my credit card number, she surprisingly said that they didn’t take them. I assumed then that I would need to send in a check or money order, but after placing my order she explained that it would be shipped out and probably get here by Friday. Here’s the good part. They would be sending an invoice separately, and I could just return that with my payment.

    The fact that their 12.8oz bottles are less than $3 prompted me to explore a little, so I’m expecting:
    Syrups

    Orgeat
    Pineapple
    Raspberry
    Falernum
    American Beauty Grenadine
    Bitters

    Old Fashioned
    Orange
    Peach

    The falernum, grenadine, and orange bitters were all more of a “comparison” purchase, as I have other brands or just make them myself too. I’m wondering if the Old Fashioned bitters are close to Angostura’s; I can’t recall what I read in any of my books.

  4. John says:

    Honestly I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Fee’s syrups. Overall I’ve been most satisfied with Monin. They’re grenadine is pretty good and does contain pomegranate. I don’t find the Fee’s Falernum appealing and have been making my own instead. It’s too sugary and syrupy for my taste.

    For those living in Seattle… the Business Coscto up in Lynnwood carries most all Davinci and Torani at excellent prices.

  5. [...] As always I can turn to the work of more experienced imbibers for the historical references such as Paul’s write up and the always useful Esquire Magazine drinks [...]

  6. [...] much every base spirit has a great recipe involving orgeat: brandy has the Japanese, whisky has the Cameron’s Kick, gin has the Gaby des Lys. The only exception I know of is [...]

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