The Knickerbocker

There are other drinks that appear under this name — Trader Vic’s Knickerbocker Cocktail is just a dry martini with a dash of Italian vermouth — but the Knickerbocker below is a 2:1:1 that proves to be ideal for a mellow summer afternoon. This is, specifically, the Knickerbocker à la Monsieur, from Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Haigh traces its first appearance to Terrington’s Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks of 1869, wherein a version for the fairer sex was also outlined.

1 1/2 oz. light rum
1/2 oz. Jamaican rum
1 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. orange curaçao
1/2 oz. raspberry syrup

Shake with crushed ice, strain into a glass filled with same.

The Knickerbocker isn’t a drink that shows its alcohol, as the raspberry syrup is more than a match for the light rum. Haigh calls for 2 oz of Virgin Islands rum, but I happen not to have any, and so use a light Barbados with a bit of Jamaican, to instill more rumminess to the affair. I’ve followed Doc’s suggestion of using Smucker’s Natural Red Raspberry Syrup. While not quite up to my own definition of “natural,” it does the trick nicely. Of course, dropping a viscous half-ounce slug of pancake syrup into your mixing glass is likely to set anticipatory teeth on edge, but press on to make a happy discovery: the otherwise cloying syrup will be perfectly countered by that tart ounce of lemon juice. It’s a well-balanced, fruity sweet-and-sour.

Served over crushed ice, the Knickerbocker gets longer with time at no detriment to drinkability. Indeed, a few judiciously-applied squirts of seltzer from the outset can be quite salutary, in that they contribute some effervescence and make a bit of a cooler of it. Regarding methods of preparation, Haigh would have us stir the ingredients directly in a collins glass or goblet, but I’ve found the raspberry syrup resistant to stirring. Shaking will ensure homogeneity, and thus no syrupy surprise at the bottom of the glass.

5 thoughts on “The Knickerbocker”

  1. I’ve been mulling over taking another crack at the Knickerbocker. The only time I tried it before, earlier this summer, I was unimpressed. Though, I was using the recipe from Wondrich’s Killer Cocktails, which called for lime juice instead of lemon (1/2 a lime, roughly 3/4 oz); and for 1/2 tsp Grand Marnier & 1 1/2 tsp raspberry syrup as sweetener.

    My problem (this one at least) can probably be traced to a few things: one, I used DaVinci syrup, which never fails to disappoint me; two, Wondrich’s recipes lean to the dry side, and this may be one where my taste requires just a bit less tartness than he prefers; and three, I followed the recipe to the letter, meaning I bought a bottle of Virgin Islands rum just for this recipe, and the rum may not be to my taste.

    I used Cruzan (the amber aged one, however they label it), which I read on eGullet (I think) is the only rum currently produced in the VI (though just the other night Murray Stenson gave me a sample of another VI rum I’d never heard of; unfortunately I can’t recall the brand name, as at the time I was, um, distracted). Can’t say I care that much for the Cruzan amber, but Wondrich suggests using any aged golden rum as a replacement (in my mind, that’s usually a green light for Mount Gay Eclipse or Appleton V/X), so I may take the Knickerbocker for another spin.

    Oh, and the raspberry–I haven’t tried (or seen) the Smuckers, but while in Vancouver, BC, last week I bought a big bottle of a Croatian raspberry syrup called Nutrafruit, which just has raspberry juice, sugar and citric acid in it, and tastes absolutely wonderful in an Italian soda. If I find satisfaction with the Knickerbocker, I may give that bottle of DaVinci the bum’s rush.

    (And just to devolve into total booze geekery for a moment, the Good Book–Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks, in other words–has a recipe that’s near identical to Wondrich’s, except Thomas calls for another 1/2 tsp of syrup, and says either a half-lime or half-lemon may be used.)

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