There’s so much talk these days about the revival of forgotten classics that I feel like some of the revived classics have been forgotten again. As everyone clamors to be the first to revive the Tokyo Tea (or any seemingly unappetizing stirred concoction from the Savoy Cocktail Book), have we let some of those original treasured finds slip by the wayside?
Back in 2007, I put the Pegu Club cocktail on my drink menu at a now-defunct steakhouse in Eugene, Oregon. Audrey Saunders’ bar, Pegu Club in New York City, had just opened in 2005—and its eponymous cocktail was the revived classic du jour. We sold a hundred of these things a night in a town that had yet to even hear the whispers of a coming cocktail renaissance.
Originally created at the Pegu Club in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Rangoon, Burma) sometime in the 1920s, the drink enjoyed a modicum of success before fading into obscurity. The drink was the poster child for the return of craft cocktails in the early 2000s, inviting a whole host of classic cocktails to appear on drink menus everywhere.
But the general public seems to have forgotten about this one again in favor of such stalwart selections as the Negroni, Daiquiri, and Sazerac. The Pegu Club is part of a larger drink family consisting of a base spirit, Cointreau, and citrus juice; the White Lady and Margarita would be classified as such, though little seems to be said these days about anything other than the Margarita.
These cocktails make up a branch of the larger family that cocktail historian Gary Regan coined the International Sours. And while you’ll see all manner of recipes for drinks in this family, I have a formula that has yet to let me down. It’s a little boozier than most, but the secret weapon—a teaspoon on sugar—ties the whole thing together. The light aromatics of gin and lime tossed around with the holiday spices of Angostura bitters make it the perfect sipper for early fall.
• 1½ oz. London dry gin
• 1 oz. Cointreau
• ¾ oz. fresh lime juice
• 1 tsp. 2:1 simple syrup
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
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