Anything You Can Do . . . : Gin and Rum in the Stork Club Cocktail

Recently I was brainstorming drinks for an informal dinner party, and the Stork Club Cocktail popped into my head. If you haven't tried it, the Stork Club is just about one of the easiest drinking panty droppers from the 1930s. I like to trot out this cocktail every now and again when I am looking for an uncomplicated, unpretentious start to a informal summer's eve. The combination of gin and orange juice give it away as a concoction created during the days of sub par gin and the uninspired ways to cover up the telltale flavor. Of course, it's very name points to its origins--the Stork Club was one of New York City's more famous speakeasies during Prohibition and was infamous for its rich and famous clientele for many years after. Refreshing, sweet and yet not so sweet, the Stork Club is an unassuming, uncomplicated sour, a lazy orange-laden Pegu Club. In the late days of spring, when the temperatures seem to first broach the seventies, and it's just warm enough to be noticeable, the Stork Club never fails to satisfy.

Stork Club Cocktail (from Lucius Beebe's Stork Club Cocktails (1946))

dash of lime juice (1/4 ounce)
juice of half orange (1 1/2 ounces)
dash of triple sec (1/4 ounce)
1 1/2 ounces gin
dash of angostura bitters (2 dashes)

Shake well and strain in chilled 4 ounce glass.

But this time was different. Almost as soon as I thought of the Stork Club, I was already transforming it into something else. Because the drink reads like an overly simple tiki drink--a blend of juices, bitters, and a liqueur on top of a versatile base--rum was just a natural impulse. But in general this cocktail is crying out for variations. The lime juice invigorates the orange juice. The bitters add necessary depth. Of course, the liqueur can easily be modified--orange juice with a hint of lime is incredibly forgiving. Whether apricot liqueur or grapefruit, peach liqueur or even something a bit more herbal like Strega, there is ample room for experimentation.

What struck me was how easy the substitution really was, both mentally and in terms of taste. It was quite a no-brainer. And while many cocktails allow for rum to stand in for gin to wonderful effect, the most notorious being the Bee's Knees (gin) and the Honeysuckle (light rum) or Honey Bee (Jamaican rum), I hadn't really paid that much attention before. Of course, an argument could be made based on drink families--a sour, whether it has gin, rum, or even whiskey, is still delicious. But whiskey does not work as a stand-in for gin in all citrus manifestations. The chemical reactions inherent to barrel-aging make sure of this. And while white spirits in general will usually work as a substitute in a pinch--some play better than others. White rum will generally work in any gin drink that includes citrus, and many that don't; white dog and tequila, each with its own funkier flavors, are harder to meld. The Stork Club is the perfect example of a citrus cocktail where both rum and gin work really well, and the substitution doesn't make the drink step too far out of its original packaging.

West 58th Street 

1 1/2 ounces white rum
1 ounce orange juice
1/4 ounce lime juice
1/4 ounce apricot liqueur
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Chairman's Reserve white rum, Bitter Truth Apricot liqueur and Angostura bitters.

1 comment:

  1. I tried this. I like taste. It was awesome and rocking. I've decided next time will add Bacardi Apple .