Here’s a gem of a drink that I’ve only just now discovered. It shouldn’t have taken so long — both Kaiser Penguin and The Spirit World have covered it — but I tumbled to the Lucien Gaudin via Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. It had heretofore escaped my attention, as it shares a page with the frightful-looking Leatherneck and didn’t rate its own photo or extended commentary. Oh, Lucien … you deserve better.
M. Gaudin was a renowned French fencing champion who earned the world title in 1905 and went on to win four gold and two silver medals in the 1920, 1924 and 1928 Olympics. Robert Hess speculates that the drink may have been created to commemorate the 1928 performance, when Gaudin took the golds for both individual foil and épée, but if so, the celebration was relatively short-lived … a banker in professional life, financial difficulties drove Gaudin to commit suicide only six years later, in 1934.
1 oz. gin
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 oz. Campari
1/2 oz. Cointreau
Stir with cracked ice, strain and garnish with orange peel.
As a drink, the Lucien Gaudin bears more than a passing resemblance to the Negroni. Half as much Campari makes it less bitter, but the dry vermouth and Cointreau in the Gaudin combine to create a lighter, less syrupy substitute for the Negroni’s sweet vermouth. A pale rosé compared to the Negroni’s dark ruby hue, it’s tempting to liken the Lucien Gaudin to a Negroni with training wheels on, in that Campari can be challenging to some palates, but that would be a disservice. Each has its own merits, and as a lighter, cleaner cocktail, the Lucien Gaudin is better-suited to occasions where a crisp drink is wanted. If you enjoy a Negroni (and why wouldn’t you?) the Lucien Gaudin deserves your consideration. You may find it to be a new favorite.
Looking for variations, a cursory turn through the bookshelf finds only one other source for the Lucien Gaudin, in Trader Vic’s 1948 Bartender’s Guide. Vic’s recipe yields a smaller drink — just 1 1/2 oz. — with a higher gin ratio (3:1:1:1). Those seeking a similar ratio in a more modern size should increase the gin to 1 1/2 oz. in the recipe above.