The Land of Forgotten Cocktails

photos/The Fuge 


photos/The Fuge


At first blush, June seems more a marital month than a martial one — all those June brides bustling about directing caterers, florists, photographers and bridesmaids easily drown out the last whispers of the Sousa bands from Memorial Day. But who among us doesn’t hear the hint of a military band in Mendelssohn’s Wedding March as she and he (usually a step behind) strut back up the aisle and out of the church? Swap the organ for horns, add drums and it’s martial music of the first order. Hell, the flourish that opens the piece sounds like the Rocky theme!

June has a decidedly patriotic cast. There are reasons aplenty to break out the flags and bunting a full month before the 4th of July — or to keep them at hand after Memorial Day. But there are no rules of etiquette (or otherwise) that say you can’t wave a little Old Glory in one hand while holding a cocktail in the other. If you do it with flourish, I’ll bet you can make that cocktail shaker rattle enough to be the envy of every snare drummer in the parade.


Army & Navy Cocktail

On June 6th we commemorate D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy. Joint operations are always tricky, and the same is true when working with pungent syrups like orgeat. We’ve deployed orgeat before, the almost sickly sweet, almond-flavored syrup from Italy or France. A pretty good one can be found at Micucci’s for just under five bucks. I’ve adjusted the original recipe, doubling the amount of gin and boosting the lemon — otherwise it tastes like high-test marzipan. In the fog of war, you have to adapt.


Betsy Ross and Stars and Stripes

In this country, Flag Day falls on June 14th, when we commemorate the adoption of the Flag of the United States by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. True to form, Congress proper waited until 1949 to officially establish a national Flag Day, and it’s not even a legally recognized holiday (except in Pennsylvania, birthplace of — you guessed it — Betsy Ross).

The Betsy Ross definitely has an 18th-century feel to it: port wine, brandy, orange liqueur and an egg yolk place it firmly in the flip family, one of the primordial cocktails. For the faint of heart, egg is optional.

At first glance, the Stars and Stripes is a funny-looking tipple: the colors aren’t all that red, white or blue. The drink is presented layered like a pousse-café, so at least you can say, “purple, clear and green — these colors don’t run!”

• • •


A James Montgomery Flagg propaganda poster.
A James Montgomery Flagg propaganda poster.

James Montgomery Flagg was born on the 18th of June, 1877, and was one of the most talented and prolific American illustrators in history. Something of a prodigy, Flagg sold his first drawings at the tender age of 12 to St. Nicholas Magazine, and by 15 he was earning a steady income drawing for Judge and Life. His output covered a lot of ground: paintings, drawings, cartoons, caricatures, advertising, propaganda posters, novels, short stories, non-fiction, and an autobiography. He illustrated Wodehouse’s Jeeves, Fitzgerald’s Benjamin Buttons, and countless others. A man-about-town, he was as famous among the café-society set as the subjects he painted and the clients he painted for.


Army Cocktail

More than anything else, Flagg is remembered for his iconic 1917 recruitment poster for the U.S. Army. “I Want You For U.S. Army” is probably the most famous poster of the 20th century — official printings across the two World Wars topped 4 million copies. Flagg used himself as the model, donning the eyebrows, goatee and costume (he had done some silent-film acting) either out of a sense of thrift or hubris — critics are divided. 

This cocktail is a slight variation on the Manhattan. Note the absence of bitters and that this cocktail is shaken. Citrus peels stand in for the bitters and shaking extracts their essences, as well as some of their bitterness.


Columbia Cocktail

Flagg used the image of Columbia in several of the posters he made for the government between 1917 and 1919. She’s the female embodiment of the United States, and he depicts her swathed in the American flag and wearing a red Phrygian, or liberty, cap. In “Wake Up, America!” she’s fast asleep. In another propaganda poster, she’s depicted sowing a victory garden.

For this cocktail you’ll need raspberry syrup. (Perhaps need is too strong a word — you’ll want raspberry syrup.) But in a pinch, a good crème de cassis or Chambord can be used. You may even consider pureeing fresh raspberries with a little simple syrup and straining out the pips. Razzmatazz, however, or any of its inbred brethren is strictly verboten!


American Beauty

Flagg was a master of the female nude, whether in the strict, high artsy-fartsy style or in the more licentious mode of the American pin-up. He had a very clear sense of what he thought the ideal woman looked like, and his views betray a distinct chauvinism with more than a whiff of misogyny. (He once referred to his former models as “zombies.”) He would die bitter (“bilious,” as one biographer put it) and alone in 1960, and perhaps leveled his harshest criticism at himself. 

 “Is it any wonder that I don’t like to look at the physical mess and mental dullness that has set in for me?”  he said. “As far back as I can remember, I have been in the limelight; now I’d rather be dead than be passed by, ignored.”

Bottom’s Up, published in 1951, is a collection of cocktail recipes sent to Ted Saucier by celebrities and famous bars, clubs and restaurants. Flagg, as well as a dozen others, contributed illustrations and drawings in the American risqué style. Flagg chose to illustrate the American Beauty cocktail, possibly because he would appear first among the alphabetically listed recipes, but I like to think that as the elder statesman of American illustrators — on that subject, at least — he thought his was the only viewpoint that mattered.





Army & Navy

1 1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz orgeat
4 oz gin

Shake with ice till well chilled and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.


Betsy Ross

1 oz brandy
1 oz port
1/4 oz orange liqueur (Cointreau, Curacao [not the blue stuff!] or triple sec)
1 dash Angostura bitters
Yolk of 1 egg

Shake with ice till well chilled and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass or Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a grate of nutmeg.


Stars and Stripes

In a sherry glass or tall liqueur glass, carefully layer:
1/3 crème de cassis
1/3 maraschino liqueur
1/3 Green Chartreuse


Army Cocktail

3 oz rye whisky
1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth 
Piece of lemon peel about the size of a quarter
Piece of orange peel about the size of a quarter

Shake with ice till well chilled and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.


Columbia Cocktail

1 1/2 oz light rum
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz raspberry syrup

Shake with ice till well chilled and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.


American Beauty

1/2 oz brandy
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz grenadine
1/2 oz orange juice
Dash of white crème de menthe (optional)
1/2 oz port wine (optional)

Shake all ingredients (except the port) with ice till well chilled and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish by floating the port on top or adding an orange twist.

— John Myers

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