Running a Tab

I’ve gnashed my teeth before about the escalating prices of vintage cocktail manuals on eBay and online bookstores, but even books currently in print can take a toll, in terms of both finances and time. Case in point: Ted Haigh’s modern classic, Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails.

Granted, the price tag is only $15.99 (cheaper if you buy it at Amazon or another big bookseller), which is certainly reasonable. But you have to take the other costs into consideration: in the two years that I’ve owned the book, Doc’s recipes and entreaties about ingredients have led me to drop no small amount of cash on bottles of Parfait Amour, apricot brandy and Lillet blanc; prompted numerous experiments with pomegranate juice in pursuit of the one, true grenadine; made it so I can’t venture into a grocery store without swinging down the jams and syrups aisle in search of the elusive Smucker’s raspberry syrup, Doc’s recommended brand; and created a low, keening longing for the unattainable Swedish Punsch, a desire that only became more acute after Murray managed to obtain a couple of bottles at Zig Zag last summer and proceeded to make me fall head over heels for Haigh’s eponymous cocktail.

Two years later, I’m still shelling it out. Latest purchase: a bottle of Rose’s Kola Tonic. As with the Parfait Amour, Haigh calls for Kola Tonic in exactly one of the cocktails in his book; of course, you’ll never find anything smaller than a 750 ml bottle, so now I’m the proud owner of 3/4 of a liter (minus a 1/2 ounce) of this weird, kind-of-but-not-entirely cola-tasting syrup, which I had to have shipped from Los Angeles.

Mixed in a Filmograph Cocktail, the syrup creates a flavor that’s hard to pin down. I’d like to say it compares to the deep, funky roundness of a good cola, but that’s not quite it; the aroma of cola is there, but in flavor, the brandy and especially the lemon juice shove it aside. It’s not unpleasant, just a bit odd. Next round, I’ll try racheting back the lemon juice a bit, so the acidity will stop getting in the tonic’s way.

While my inner cheapskate makes me groan about the expense, the Kola Tonic really is quite a bargain (less than $20, including shipping), as compared to other cocktail ingredients. Now if I could just find the damn Swedish Punsch….

Filmograph Cocktail

  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce Kola Tonic

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

7 Responses to Running a Tab

  1. Yes, I curse both Mr. Haigh and Gary Regan for the dents they have put in my pocketbook!

    Swedish Punsch is a tricky one. Given the number of Swedish immigrants in the midwest, I just can’t believe that there is no source for it here. They can’t all be teetotalers!

    I have yet to find a source. Let me know if you find one.

    However, I now know that Sri Lankan Arrack is available in Canada, so a quick dash across the border could result in the ability to make your Arrack Punsch.

  2. Have you had no luck with the sites in the resource guide in re Swedish Punsch? Seems I’ve heard that some of those sites will no longer ship to the US.


  3. Just a note to let you know that VESSEL is now open. (1312 5th Ave, right next to the theatre) We’d love to have you pop by, and if you want, I’ll buy the rest of that Kola Tonic off of you.

  4. Andy,

    The easiest source, and the one which comes up in google, is I think that is the one Haigh gives in “Vintage Spirits…”. If you try to buy alcohol from them, it gets removed from your cart before checkout, due to “Export Restrictions” or some such. I’ve read some people have luck by contacting them directly. Haven’t tried that yet, as I don’t want to pay shipping from Sweden, if I can avoid it.

    There is another source on the web that sells it; but, the site is entirely in Swedish, so I’ve never made it through the checkout process.

  5. I found Swedish Punsch at Alpine Village Market in Torrance, CA. They have a web site but they don’t sell booze online.

    Thanks for the tip on Kola Tonic. I’ll pick up a bottle next month when I’m in Southern California.

  6. Where in LA did you find this bottle?I would love to have it, its my favorite drink.Can you give me the store,s name?


  7. Cola Tonic is great if you use just a good dash in ginger ale and a dash of lemon juice. It is also used in the steelworks drink.

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