Saturday 27 June 2020

A cocktail fit for a Queen

Recycling again. I liked this Charles Merser & Co. Rum bottle so much I hung on to it after I drank its contents, and I’ve now had the perfect opportunity to find a use for it: for my sister’s 50th birthday I knocked up a batch of this regal-looking cocktail.

(The name I’ve given the cocktail is a reference to Queenie in the TV sitcom Blackadder II—she’s a capricious Queen Elizabeth I with the soul of a toddler, whose response whenever someone suggests she can’t or shouldn’t do something is, “Who’s Queen?” This phrase became associated with my sister so long ago I can’t remember why…)

Although eminently suited to a golden jubilee, the concoction itself is actually based on a cocktail invented in 1935 for George V’s silver jubilee, called a Jubileesha. The original contains ⅔ gin and ⅓ “Lillet”, plus three dashes of orange bitters. At the time “Lillet” would have been Kina Lillet, an aromatised wine with quinine in it, so notably bitter. Kina Lillet was a popular cocktail ingredient back in the day but in the 1980s Lillet discontinued it and replaced it with the current Lillet range—it’s generally agreed that Lillet Blanc (sweet and orangey) isn’t the same thing. Even if you’ve never tasted Kina Lillet—which I haven’t, but many scholars have—you can tell from making vintage cocktails that Lillet Blanc doesn’t work in those recipes. There are various theories about what currently-available product is closest to Kina Lillet, and I feel that Cocchi Americano does seem to fill the gap—in the sense that, used in the same proportions in these vintage recipes, it creates balanced cocktails.

I actually wrote about this cocktail before, back in 2012 when we had a Candlelight Club event themed around the Queen’s jubilee that year. But I didn’t simply replace the Kina Lillet with Cocchi Americano—I actually used a half and half mix of Cocchi and Lillet Blanc. I can’t remember why I decided that a Lillet Blanc/Cocchi Americano blend worked better than just the Cocchi on its own—it’s quite exposed in this recipe, so maybe I decided that this blend dialled down the bitterness and added some needed sweet and fruity elements. I certainly feel that it works, though. As for the gin, this time round I actually tried four different gins that I had to hand, and concluded that Broker’s gin worked best. It’s a gin I intend to explore in greater depth.

So the recipe this time is:

Who’s Queen?
50 ml gin
12.5 ml Cocchi Americano
12.5 ml Lillet Blanc
3 dashes orange bitters
1 dash grapefruit bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with strips of lemon and orange peel.

As you can see, for this bottled version we upped the ante by adding edible gold leaf, which creates a regal snow-globe effect when you shake the bottle. To serve this version you would shake the bottle to distribute the leaf, then pour out the desired quantity into a shaker, shake with ice and pour out—this time without fine-straining. Interestingly the gold leaf doesn’t seem to get stuck in the shaker as long as you pour it out vigorously.