In the same way DJs dig through crates of forgotten albums, bartenders love to dig up old-timey cocktails and either repurpose them with a new twist or just serve them as they were made a hundred years ago. Well, at least this bartender does.
One in particular that has my curiosity piqued of late is the Japanese Cocktail, which dates back to the mid-1800s and is believed to be an original recipe created by “Professor” Jerry Thomas, widely considered to be the father of the American cocktail.
There’s nothing particularly Japanese about this drink. In fact, it’s made from French cognac, French orgeat and Venezuelan bitters. Go figure. As the story goes, the name actually comes from the drink being created as a commemoration of the very first visit to America by Japanese dignitaries (circa 1860), and appeared in Thomas’ Bar-Tender’s Guide in 1862.
Orgeat, an almond syrup made from almonds, sugar, water and orange flower water, lends this cocktail a sweet overtone with a nutty richness. If you have ever had a properly made Mai Tai, you’ve tasted orgeat. When combined with the bitters and cognac, the drink yields a soothing, bitter candy-coated earthiness that makes this the perfect drink to slowly sip by a roaring fire. It’s definitely a cool weather drink, so stock up for the coming months and ride out the winter in style.
Kevin Hopper likes the outdoors, but loves working indoors serving cocktails at Capitol Bar on State Street, which is equipped with a fireplace (hint, hint).
2 ounces cognac
1/2 ounces orgeat
2 dashes angostura bitters
In a mixing glass, combine cognac, orgeat and bitters. Add ice and stir for 30-40 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass and express the oils from the lemon peel over the drink. Garnish with the lemon peel.