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.
3 oz. Teacher’s blended Scotch whisky
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
4 dashes Fee’s orange bitters
Ice well, stirring, swirling, or otherwise gently chilling, and strain. A maraschino cherry is the traditional garnish.
The Rob Roy is a fine cocktail that almost any liquor cabinet should be able to produce: it asks for little in the way of the exotic and doesn’t even require fresh fruit! I judge it to be mild, smooth and delicious… a pale, aromatic, eminently quaffable concoction. I made a few this evening after noting that Looka!‘s cocktail of the day today was the Perfect Manhattan, which seemed a good idea. Forgetting that I have a bottle of bourbon, I reached for the scotch instead, the substitution of which yields a Rob Roy. Quite a happy accident.
1 oz. Plymouth gin
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1 tsp. grenadine
1 tsp. pineapple juice
1 egg white
Shake with cracked ice and strain into double cocktail glass.
Not a winner. Rosy red and buoyed a bit by the egg white, it fails overall. It’s bland, sweet and uninspiring. Don’t waste your Plymouth on this one.
Recipe from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, © 1947. p. 155
1 oz. London dry gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
garnish with orange twist (burnt or otherwise)
The Negroni is a beautiful translucent ruby, walking a fine line between extravagance and elegance. Campari and vermouth counterbalance one another perfectly, with the gin largely serving to add volume and proof while reducing the viscosity a bit. The Campari sounds the dominant note, and I like it just fine. According to cocktailtimes.com (and others — it’s a popular legend), we have Count Camillo Negroni of Florence to thank for this happy update to the Americano. One should apparently garnish the Negroni with a bit of “burnt orange” — this involves holding a lit match over the glass while expressing the oil from a twist of peel. Might be worth attempting, though the folks at Campari don’t mention it in their recipe for the Negroni. Then again, they would have one serve it in an old fashioned glass on the rocks, which seems an injustice considering how splendidly the Negroni displays up on a stem.
Do use London Dry — Plymouth or Hendrick’s would be a waste — since Campari and sweet vermouth overwhelm a delicate gin’s subtleties. You could probably even substitute vodka without noticing too much, but I can’t possibly advocate it. Leave the Negroni alone unless there’s no gin in the house, and then please don’t mention the transgression to others, lest it become practice.
If you haven’t a bottle of Campari to hand, acquire one and stir up a Negroni. It’s simplicity itself to produce, deliciously bitter-sweet, deceptively drinkable, and, at 56°, will see you into a happy place more rapidly than you might have thought. Suitable for any respectable hour and as an anodyne to any weather but the most inclement.
Fill large Bar glass ⅓ full Fine Ice.
¾ Sherry Wine.
¾ Italian Vermouth.
Stir; strain into Cocktail glass. Serve.