Just like two weeks ago, today’s recipe features brandy — whatever brandy you prefer, whether it’s cognac, armagnac, or something domestic. (Even applejack would work, if you’re feeling a bit creative.) I’m pulling this drink from the Savoy Cocktail Handbook, and I like it not just because it’s good, but because it shows two typical characteristics of classic cocktail composition.
First, we’re using a lot of vermouth to stretch out a measure of the base spirit — in fact, the drink has a 1-1 ratio of vermouth to brandy, which is kind of crazy from today’s cocktail standards. (Compare it to a standard martini these days, which, if ordered “dry”, will have a 20-1 gin-to-vermouth ratio, if not higher. Even a “standard” Manhattan has between a 3-1 and 5-1 whiskey-to-vermouth ratio, though retro-minded cocktail bars will adjust that ratio down to 2-1.) There are a couple of reasons bartenders would have used more vermouth. The first is that the spirits they had available might not have been very good (or that good spirits were cost-prohibitive.) The other is that the spirits they used might have been stronger than those we work with now, since proof wasn’t standardized. (David Wondrich does a great job of explaining the phenomenon here.)
Second, we’re using a few dashes of cordials to tweak the flavor of this drink just enough to make this cocktail unique. This was pretty common as well — again, as a way to make as many different cocktails as possible with a limited amount of bar supplies. Bartenders would have considered the same exact drink with a few dashes of Chambord instead of curacao to be an entirely different drink. (And they would have rationed out the cordials carefully, to stretch the supply.)
Anyway, the Bombay (which, you’ll notice, has no Bombay gin in the mix). I’m not sure why the cocktail is named after the city now known as Mumbai, especially since it seems to have a thoroughly British profile. Maybe the drink reminded someone of the former imperial outpost. Maybe the color reminded someone of rupees. Maybe it’s completely random. A good drink, either way.
- 1 dash absinthe, Pernod, or anisette
- 2 dashes Cointreau, triple sec, or curacao
- .75 oz. dry (French) vermouth
- .75 oz. sweet (Italian) vermouth
- 1.5 oz. brandy
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice.
- Shake well to mix; strain into cocktail glass and serve ungarnished.