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.