Let’s be honest here.
There are plenty of old cocktail recipes documented from prohibition, and earlier, that are not all that. Just because a drink is old does not necessarily mean it is any good, regardless of your levels of nostalgia.
But I think the Scofflaw is one of the good ones.
When you make it with good grenadine, quality alcohol and fresh citrus it has a well balanced fruity flavor with some complexity from the vermouth and the rye whiskey.
Sort of like a combination of a Manhattan and a classic sour cocktail.
The definition of a Scofflaw
The term Scofflaw is a corny combination of words that was the result of a contest held by a prominent supporter of prohibition, Delcevere King.
In 1924 Mr. King held a competition that would offer $200 in gold to the individual that coined the best derogatory term for those that blatantly ignored the laws of prohibition.
The contest drew massive attention with thousands of entries and, dumb as it may seem, the term Scofflaw won.
And now comes the cocktail.
To poke fun at the Americans and their floundering attempts to halt drunkenness, the New York bar in Paris came up with this cocktail just weeks after the winning term “Scofflaw” was announced.
And with the help of cocktail historians like Ted Haigh, old recipes like this one can be shared and tasted nearly 100 years later.
What recipe should you use?
There are lots of different versions of the Scofflaw cocktail floating around the internet.
They all have their own unique tweaks but I prefer the recipe that Ted shares in his book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. It definitely seems the most well balanced.
People play around with the ratio of all the ingredients.
Some go up to 2 oz of whiskey, scale back on the lemon (or sub it for lime), or wack the amount of grenadine all the way down to a barspoon.
I don’t suggest any of those adjustments.
For the Scofflaw cocktail to have some interest you need to have a good portion of lemon juice balanced out by an equal amount of sweetness. Think of it as making a daiquiri with only a little bit of simple syrup and lime juice… it would just be rum with a hint of flavor and not all that eventful.
Choosing the ingredients
After stating that I follow the recipe that Ted includes in his book I have to say I make one small addition.
I think this drink benefits from some orange.
A few dashes of orange bitters and a squeeze of a peel over the finished drink really boost things up a notch.
The hint of orange seems to give the impression of sweetness without actually adding any sugars which works really well with the flavors in grenadine and helps further balance out the lemon.
Otherwise the ingredients are straight forward. Use solid mixing rye, and vermouth, and make your own grenadine (it’s not hard).
For mixing rye I often use Rittenhouse for a big bold spicy flavor, or if you want to go a little more mild and nutty Old Overholt is a solid option. As for vermouth, Dolin Dry is my favorite with some nice complexity and a price point that’s pretty tough to beat.
Always reach out to me with questions or comments and let me know if there are any tweaks you like to make in your Scofflaw cocktails.
Scofflaw Cocktail Recipe
- 1 1/2 Oz Rye Whiskey
- 1 Oz Dry Vermouth
- 3/4 Oz Lemon Juice
- 3/4 Oz Grenadine
- 2 dashes Orange Bitters - optional
- 1 Orange Peel - optional
- Add the ingredients to your shaker.
- Add ice and shake for about 12 seconds.
- Double Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Express oils from orange peel of the drink and drop in for garnish. (optional)
Share The Scofflaw
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Sometimes you're in the mood to drink something for dessert, and this could be your answer.
Do you have a favorite dessert cocktail?