Friday, April 04, 2014

Cocktail of the Week: The Abbey

If you’ll open your hymnals and turn to the initial selection …

Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book is a veritable Bible of booze, and the Abbey is the first drink named in its sacred pages. Considering it’s batting leadoff, you’d think I would have gotten to it long before now.

The Savoy recipe calls for one-half gin, one-quarter each Kina Lillet and orange juice, and a dash of Angostura bitters. While Lillet Blanc is now used in place of the discontinued Kina, that ratio has remained unchanged – except in some corners of England, where the aperitif is omitted and the denizens of that scepter’d isle are left sippin’ on gin and juice. (Snoop Dogg raps about the Abbey on import versions of Doggystyle: “With my mind on my monks and my monks on my mind.”) Innovation has been limited to the bitters. gaz regan says Peychaud’s also works well, while bitters guru Brad Thomas Parsons favors the orange variety and also a cherry garnish, which I heartily endorse.

Speaking of garnishes, King Cocktail Dale DeGroff recommends finishing off the Abbey with one of his patented flaming orange peels. This step entails expressing the oils of the fruit’s rind through a lit match, which caramelizes them and subtly alters their flavor. A fine idea, but that kind of flash is why I go to bars and have drinks made for me. Plus open flames are a violation of my lease.

I did try another DeGroff suggestion, placing an orange slice into the shaker before the other ingredients, bruising the fruit’s meat and skin with a muddler, then applying some extra elbow grease to the shake. It worked wonders in boosting the citrus flavor – a flamed peel would just be showing off at this point – but it made me glad I’d recently started double-straining cocktails.

One other modification undertaken on my own initiative: using Cocchi Americano in place of Lillet Blanc in the same proportion. This substitution is now standard practice for me, given that the snap of cinchona bark in Cocchi Americano renders it closer to Kina’s now-lost flavor. Little surprise that the Abbey is heralded as a reliable brunch cocktail; most OJ drinks are. But the additional bitterness of the Cocchi Americano proves an equal match for the sweet pop from the juice, making a drink spry enough to break out of that Sunday morning ghetto and cause trouble in the twilight hours.

The Abbey

1 ½ oz. gin
¾ oz. Cocchi Americano
¾ oz. fresh orange juice
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Shake. Strain. Garnish with a cherry.

Want more Cocktail of the Week? The first fifty-two essays are available in the Kindle bestseller DOWN THE HATCH: ONE MAN’S ONE YEAR ODYSSEY THROUGH CLASSIC COCKTAIL RECIPES AND LORE. Buy it now at