Some of you may have looked askance at the last episode of Food History Happy Hour where I made (or rather, botched) the 1902 Irish Cocktail. In my defense, it has been a long and rather sleep-deprived spring, and so I let my determination to do the cocktail outweigh my lack of alcohol knowledge, to rather disastrous results. The lesson? You can probably substitute one ingredient in a cocktail, but two or three is a bridge too far.
However, Food Historian friend (and Patreon patron!) Anna Katherine is actually an oenologist (that is, a wine scientist) and knows a great deal more about alcohol than I do. She clearly also has a much better stocked liquor cabinet. So she revisited the original recipe much more faithfully, and found the results much better.
Here's what she has to say:
[A]s a general rule I don't criticize another scholar's work, but after that...er... creation you produced Friday I had Questions. (And a healthy dose of Professional Curiosity.) So- substituting only Pernod for Absinthe, I made the Irish Cocktail. I agree with your estimation of 2oz for a small wine glass, and a dash is a scant 1/4th tsp. I also shook instead of pouring over shaved ice, because I didn't have any- but I compensated by shaking a bit longer than usual to get some melt into the drink, as would happen as you sipped something over shaved ice. The result was perfectly pleasant- a bit boozy, yes, but the dashes of Pernod, curaçao and maraschino added a touch of sweetness that brought out the vanilla notes in the curacao and whiskey, and added some subtle, complex spice around the edges of an otherwise straightforward drink. The lemon peel brought pulled the balance back in so it was focused instead of fat and sweet. Whiskey (made from malt and aged in old barrels) is more subtle and less oaky than bourbon (made from corn and aged in new barrels), so I suspect I had a softer, more integrated, and more balanced tipple than your alcoholic anise Shirley Temple. (I forgot the olive. Dammit.)
I never shirk from constructive criticism! Although it must be noted that Anna Katherine did technically substitute Cointreau for curaçao, even though some argue that Cointreau is just a version of curaçao, it is not generally labeled as such in liquor stores, so poor novices like me can't be blamed for buying the blue stuff, okay? ;)
Thankfully, we both agreed that the addition of an olive (the original recipe does not indicate ripe, Spanish, or pimento-stuffed) was a strange addition, anyway.
You can check the original post for the historic recipe, but Anna Katherine followed it pretty faithfully, except for the substitution of Pernod for the absinthe, which is much-maligned in history, as this excellent article outlines, but which is now "legal" again in the United States, although difficult to find on liquor store shelves.
Absinthe, of course, is chartreuse in color, but the recipe contains so little of it one wonders if it would have affected the color of the cocktail at all. Certainly the curaçao would not have been blue at that time, as the best guesses are it was tinted blue starting in the 1920s.
Many thanks again to Anna Katherine for taking on the task of trying a more accurate version of the recipe and reporting back the results!
Is your liquor cabinet well-stocked enough to try the Irish Cocktail? Do you think the olive would add anything? Let us know in the comments!
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.