The Intoxicologist

Monday, November 5, 2007

De-Fizzing the Gansevoort

While flipping through a cocktail book the other evening a drink caught my eye; the Gansevoort Fizz. While this isn’t the first cocktail with an unusual name to have caused me pause, it was the description that had me salivating for more information. It seems this particular cocktail’s inspiration was a drink from the 1930’s with the unlikely combination of Drambuie and rum.

My fascination with Drambuie is that it is often overlooked in cocktail books and when it is referenced its most notable drink is the Rusty Nail. While the Rusty Nail is certainly not a drink to scoff at or take lightly, it is basically a “duo” drink. A duo drink is exactly what it sounds like; a drink that is usually one part base liquor and one part liqueur in varying ratios. The Rusty Nail can become quite a fascinating drink once the complexities of different scotches are taken into consideration. Every scotch has a character of its own. Some are lightly peated while others are heavily peated. Each would call for a completely different ratio of Drambuie to scotch in the duo mix. All this could be great fun for the scotch enthusiast, but I was searching for something a little different with the Drambuie. Surely there is something new and inspiring to do with this silky smooth liqueur that practically rolls off the back of the tongue begging the senses to take in more.

And there it was! It was staring me right in the face buried under years of Drambuie history in the family name. The Mackinnon. The Mackinnon was the inspiration cocktail for the Gansevoort Fizz. However, without the history of Drambuie, the Mackinnon cocktail lacks pizzazz.

Be it legend, lore or good old fashioned honest truth, Drambuie came to be through the hands of a prince after a bloody rebellion was quashed. Prince Charles Edward Stuart sailed to Scotland in 1745 to raise an army to restore the exiled kings of England, Scotland and Ireland to their rightful thrones. The Highland clans rose to the challenge and fought alongside their prince.

After nearly reaching their goal one hundred thirty miles from London, reinforcements failed to arrive. Though they were outnumbered and surrounded, the prince and his rebels continued the fight. It was at Culloden Moor that the rebellion was crushed and bathed in blood. The prince escaped capture and a steep price was put upon his head.

The prince was met with devotion from his Highland friends. Captain John Mackinnon of Strathaird gave the prince refuge, helping him to elude capture and safely return to France. In gratitude the prince bestowed upon Captain Mackinnon the recipe to his most prized elixir. Drambuie is the princely liqueur John Mackinnon brought to the world. Each bottle still honors the prince on its label with the words “REMEMBER THE GIFT OF THE PRINCE”

It wasn’t until I researched Drambuie further than cocktail books did I find that the contents of the bottle really is more complex than the off the cuff description of heather and honey. After all, a future king demanded particular things of the secret potion that nursed his soul.

Drambuie’s base liquor is scotch whiskey that has been infused with heather honey. This is what gives this liqueur its unique smooth flavor. There is also a hint of cloves in the Drambuie. It is believed that cloves have analgesic properties in addition to their spicy aroma. This would be a fitting addition to the prince’s mixture as he used it for medicinal purposes. It is also speculated that saffron is included in the Drambuie formula. Not only is the golden splendor of saffron appropriate for a prince, but it is also said that saffron may have sedative properties. Other than these few small components, all else regarding the recipe of Drambuie remains shrouded in mystery, kept secret by the Mackinnon family.

This brings us to the exciting part; pouring, tasting, tweaking, and creating. Have fun with the old cocktails. This is where new trends emerge.

The Mackinnon

2 oz Drambuie
1/2 oz white rum
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz lemon juice


Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a Collins glass with only 2 or 3 ice cubes in it. Top off with club soda.

The Drambuie is definitely the showcase piece in this drink for which it was so aptly named after the family who brought us the liqueur. While this makes a perfectly satisfying tall bubbly drink, I find it to be lacking a bit on the strength side. The soda overwhelms the drink a bit. From this came the Gansevoort Fizz created by David Wondrich.

Gansevoort Fizz

2 oz Bacardi 8 Rum
1 oz Drambuie
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 - 3 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters


Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled Collins glass without any ice. Top with 2 to 3 ounces of chilled club soda.

The Gansevoort Fizz has a much stronger rum flavor than the Mackinnon, yet is not overwhelming. The club soda still dilutes the drink a bit too much for what I’m really striving for, but there are real possibilities with this particular drink. The heavier ratio of rum to the sugar content of the liqueur evens out while still allowing the smoothness of the Drambuie to shine through. While the Drambuie does not figure front and center in the Gansevoort Fizz, it gives it just the brush of flavor the drink needs. Add in the simple dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters and this drink is a real keeper. What I really want though is something without the fizz. The fizz is taking too much shine off the bare bones of this drink. I want to really taste it.

Sometimes when looking for something particular, dare to go bare. In this case the bare is without the fizz. Since the club soda thins out both the Mackinnon and Gansevoort Fizz it makes sense to try them without the club soda. The question is of preference. The Mackinnon is a little on the sweeter side, since it highlights the Drambuie and carries a light rum as its secondary liquor. The Gansevoort Fizz has only a hint of sweetness balanced against the tartness of the fresh lemon while still allowing the Drambuie to shine through with the dark rum as its highlight. My personal favorite of the two is the Gansevoort Fizz without the fizz.

Gansevoort De-Fizzed

2 oz Bacardi 8 Rum
1 oz Drambuie
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 – 3 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters


Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled two thirds full of ice. Shake. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. No club soda this time. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Gansevoort De-Fizzed is my idea of a cocktail. It has an old fashioned flare about it without the outdated feel. Opting for a shaken and strained drink in a cocktail glass rather than a tall fizz gives this drink a modern twist while keeping the craft of bartending intact. The flavor is more intense instead of being blurred with bubbles. This cocktail flirts with the taste buds just enough to keep one coming back for sip after sip.

What I found in the Gansevoort Fizz and Mackinnon is that old cocktails can stimulate an idea and from that idea, creativity finds a new path. The Gansevoort Fizz was exactly the catalyst it took to rekindle my interest in this legendary liqueur. Pick up an old cocktail book and start browsing. Turn something old into something new. Enjoy!

An excellent book for your cocktail studies is The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan which was referenced for parts of this article. Check out the Drambuie website for more history about the liqueur and Mackinnon family at www.drambuie.com.

1 comment:

rob k said...

these are great and i'll try em both soon. i work around the bottle of drambuie at my bar and never use it save for the infrequent rusty nail. thanks