Sunday, July 29, 2012

Classic Cocktails: the East India Cocktail

This drink comes, once again, from Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. There are quite a number of different versions of this drink, but the original appears to have come from Harry Johnson's New and Improved Bartender's Manual, published in 1882. You can find some of the other versions in the Cocktail Database, but I'll be sticking with the VSFC version today.

East India Cocktail
3 oz brandy
0.5 oz raspberry syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 tsp orange liqueur
1 tsp Maraschino liqueur

Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for 15 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The nose is mostly a sort of vague fruitiness from the raspberry syrup and cognac, with just a hint of spice from the Maraschino and bitters. For all the syrups and liqueurs in this cocktail, the sip is not terribly sweet. It is, however, very, very smooth. Complexity builds up towards the back of the mouth, with the brandy coming in first, followed by the orange liqueur and Maraschino funkiness. The finish is all Maraschino and bitters.

I'll have to admit, this is not quite as good as I hoped it would be. I wonder if it might be better with only 2-2.5 oz of cognac, to let the other ingredients shine just a little bit more. You could also theoretically make it a bit brighter with an unaged brandy like pisco, which would be a little sharper, without the rounded barrel flavors of an aged brandy. However, it does improve a bit as the drink warms up and the aromatics become more volatile.

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