For mixology inspiration this weekend, we’re looking to notable obscure moments of the past.
Friday Happy Hour: Welcome Back Charlie!
May 17’s cocktail is inspired by an odd moment in history 35 years ago. On March 2, 1978, Charlie Chaplin’s body was disinterred from a Lausanne, Switzerland cemetery. After 11 weeks on the lam, it was found May 17, the result of a botched ransom attempt—Chaplin’s widow refused to pay, leaving the two enterprising chaps with, well, Chap.
We want to celebrate the return of Chaplin, 35 years removed, by raising a glass to the legendary comedian. To do so, we’re taking a page from the Waldorf-Astoria, pre-Prohibition, when the famed New York bar on Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street (subsequently moved to Park Avenue in 1931) was the talk of the town and Chaplin was not just a popular actor but an in-demand cocktail to boot. Appearing in A.S. Crockett’s 1935 tome, The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, which chronicled the bar from 1897-1919, the Chaplin was a simple three-part drink with a sweet touch.
Scene from The Idle Class [1921; First National Pictures]
The Charlie Chaplin
- 1 oz. apricot brandy
- 1 oz. sloe gin*
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
Add ingredients into a cocktail tin over ice; shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime peel.
*Sloe gin is a fruit-infused liquor that contains sloe berries, a plum relative. They are usually too bitter to eat raw, but the flavor is enhanced when mixed with gin. It give this cocktail a unique flavor.
More fun facts about May 17: The first Kentucky Derby occurred May 17, 1875. It’s also Sugar Ray Leonard’s birthday.
Saturday is for Black Eyes
On May 18, the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore takes off. Though it may not have the same caché as the Kentucky Derby, the race is still part of America’s fabric as the second leg of thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown. Reports are Orb, Churchill Downs winner, is training well on the Pimlico track and, in the No. 1 post of just nine, looks to be on track to take the second gem of the crown. As of the morning line May 17, Orb is still at 1/1, while his closest competition, Mylute, in the No. 5 post, is at 5/1.
But let's get down to brass tacks. Besides the few who have some scratch in the game, the average American enjoys thoroughbred racing for the infield, hats and the drinks. The official drink of the Preakness, the Black-Eyed Susan stems from Maryland’s state flower of the same name that is draped over the winning horse’s mane after the race. Unlike the Derby stalwart, the mint julep, the Black-Eyed Susan is somewhat of a shape-shifter, changing ingredients and make-up depending on the liquor sponsor (there has been a jump between bourbon and vodka for some time). This year, the official sip is getting a tag team of liquor sponsors: Finlandia Vodka and St. Germain Liqueur. It seems as though the Preakness Stakes, an American tradition, has sold out to the highest European bidder, but give this cocktail a try. For years, the Susan was an orangey, pineapple mess; this version has some variations, but it could be the beginning of a new tradition. So to that, we salute you with the recipe that inspired the Preakness’ official sip, by way of mixologist Gina Chersevani Dundee.
Tip: Seeing that May 18 is National No Dirty Dishes Day, we suggest making these at someone else’s house—let them deal with the mess.
- 1 ½ oz. Finlandia Vodka
- ½ oz. St. Germain Liqueur
- 1 oz. lemon juice
- ½ oz. raspberry juice
- ½ oz. simple syrup
- Half stalk of lemongrass
- Sage leaf
In a cocktail tin, muddle lemongrass stalk; add vodka, St. Germain, lemon and raspberry juice, simple syrup and fill with ice. Hake until frothy, strain over highball glass fill with ice; garnish with sage leaf.
*The official Preakness cocktail is simplified to accommodate the crowds. Here’s the race's version:
- 1 ¼ oz. Finlandia Vodka
- ¼ oz. St. Germain Liqueur
- 2 oz. lemon juice
- 3 oz. lemongrass and blackberry simple syrup
- 6 drops Angostura bitters
More fun facts about May 18: In addition to being National Pizza and No Dirty Dishes Day, it is also Cheese Soufflé Day and International Virtual Assistants Day. It also happens to be the 138th day of the year, making the 138th running of the Preakness quite ironic.
Sunday Funday: Happy Birthday, Mr. President
We have a trio of drinks for those looking to continue the party 19, and they all stem from perhaps the most recognizable rendition of the "Happy Birthday" song. On May 19, 1962, Marilyn Monroe sultrily sang the infamous words, “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to then-President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden for the celebration for his forty-fifth birthday. It is a moment that has lived on for generations, spoofed and reenacted time and time again.
May 19 has also been designated National Devil’s Food Cake Day. Perhaps the nominating committee was swayed by Ms. Monroe’s, ahem, singing voice when selecting this date—because, after all, where Marilyn was concerned, JFK was rumored to have his cake and eat it, too.
To celebrate this happy May trio, we present three cocktails: JFK’s purported favorite, the Daiquiri; The Marilyn Monroe; and a ditty from Cupcake Vodka using its Devil’s Food-flavored nip for a sip dubbed Devil in a New Dress—rather apropos for this scenario.
Devil in a New Dress
- 1 ½ oz. Cupcake Devil’s Food Vodka
- ½ oz. heavy cream
- 1 tbs. chocolate syrup
- ½ oz. coconut syrup*
In a cocktail tin, add ingredients over ice; shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist.
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tbs. shredded coconut
In a small sauce pan, heat ingredients until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, let cool; strain syrup.
? ? ?
The Marilyn Monroe
- 4 oz. Champagne, chilled
- 1 oz. apple brandy
- 1 tsp. grenadine
Pour ingredients into a coupe glass. Lightly stir with two cherries on a stick, drop into glass. Enjoy.
? ? ?
- 2 oz. silver rum
- 1 oz. fresh Lime Juice
- ¾ oz. simple syrup*
Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a coupe glass without ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.
*Simple Syrup can be easily made by heating equal parts of baking sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool before use.
If you would like to nominate a cocktail recipe to appear in our latest series "Weekend Cocktails," email the online editor here.
Tools of the Trade
Become a master mixologist, or at least look like one, with the tools that make the trade.
- Muddler: This little tenderizing stick is a godsend and a must for any home bar. If fruity cocktails are in your future, the muddler is the only way to unlock fruits’ flavor.
- Handheld Citrus Juicer: Nothing beats freshly squeezed juice, but it can be a pain. Invest in a handheld citrus juicer; they are cheap and do the trick tout de suite.
- Cocktail Shaker: Purchase a nice shaker and become a master home barkeep.
- Jigger: This little apparati will make mixing the perfect drink as easy as pie. It's equipped with 1½ oz. and ¾ oz. cups for perfectly measured pours every time.
*Pictured available at Williams-Sonoma