How to Make the Cognac and Orgeat Drink – Robb Report

The Japanese cocktail is not Japanese. It’s best to clarify that right away. It’s not even a little bit Japanese. It was invented by an American bartender, made primarily from French ingredients, and served in New York. So why is it called a Japanese cocktail? As far as we know, it got its name from the one time in 1860 when the guy who invented it met, or maybe just saw, a Japanese guy.

Don’t get me wrong, the Japanese are great, but these days we don’t tend to throw a parade when a few dozen of them come to New York. But apparently they thought otherwise in the mid-19th century, because when three samurai ambassadors, accompanied by a 74-strong entourage, arrived in America to ratify the Treaty of Friendship and Trade in June 1860, New York City literally hosted them a parade.

It’s difficult to overstate America’s enthusiasm for this visit. At this point, Japan had been politically isolated for 250 years. So this delegation was almost certainly the first time anyone from Japan had set foot in New York, and the city made sure to give them a good time. The parade took them on a four-mile tour of Lower Manhattan, with two different artillery salutes and an escort of more than 5,000 members of the First Division New York State Militia. Both Japanese and American flags hung on “almost every window,” it said. Organizers ordered all of the city’s shops to close at 2:00 p.m. that day to allow everyone to watch, and some reports put the number of spectators at 500,000. “You will be welcomed as befits the representatives of this great and mysterious empire,” he wrote New York Times this morning, declaring that “the panorama of her escort … will probably be one of the most novel and imposing spectacles ever seen in this city.”

Read  How to Prepare for a Medical Crisis as an Entrepreneur Based on My Experience – Rolling Stone

The samurai’s two-week stay in New York City was celebrated well beyond the newspapers. Walt Whitman wrote a poem for the occasion. Charles Grobe composed a song. Getting back to the topic at hand, a bartender named Jerry Thomas whipped up a cognac, almond syrup, and bitters cocktail. Although most of the delegation did not speak English, they are said to have enjoyed the parts of New York that did not require translation, i.e. the drinking scene – Thomas was famous, his bar was less than a block from the delegation’s hotel, and it isn’t hard to imagine they were drinking there. In the absence of more specifics, all we have is imagination, but what we do know is that not long after, Thomas published the very first drink recipe book The Bartender’s Guide: How To Mix Drinks, or Bon-Vivant’s Companion, and there, named in homage, it contains the Japanese cocktail.

So the Japanese cocktail remains a small liquid artefact of the time. You don’t see it often; Looking at the name itself requires about four paragraphs of explanation (see above), I guess most people just don’t care. But stir one up and you’ll find it’s a fantastic drink, essentially an Old Fashioned with extra nutty richness, punchy with strength but alluring with the dual charm of cognac and orgeat. Flavored with bitters, it resembles a high-proof pastry and is one of the better cocktails to enjoy as the last drink before bed.

We’d like to think Thomas named it after the Japanese emissaries because they liked the drink so much, but we can’t know. We’ll never know if the envoys themselves ever had it, but it’s nice to imagine this delegation, swords and all, enjoying a Japanese cocktail or two before retiring for the night, and maybe even thinking, that there isn’t the slightest bit Japanese about this mix, it’s still pretty awesome.

Table of Contents

Japanese cocktail

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 20 to 30 seconds. Strain the ice into a cocktail glass or coupe and garnish with a lemon zest.


Reserve bar

Cognac: Cognac is a spirit with many faces, and different bottlings can showcase a wide range of fruitiness, florals, richness and oak. VS (less aged) cognac is good, but light and a little too flat. XO (much older) was heavy and a bit finicky, needing just the right kind of orgeat and a lemon zest to shine. The Goldilocks zone here is VSOP, between them in wealth and age. I tried five different VSOP bottlings and liked them all, but my favorites were H by Hine and the Pierre Ferrand Ambré.

Another thing I want to say is that there are so many production decisions with cognac, so many subtle decisions that affect its final taste, that superficially similar bottlings present themselves in completely different ways. For example, the Remy Martin XO really didn’t work, but then I added a lemon zest and suddenly it clicked and was amazing. Both Hennessy VSOP and Remy Martin 1738 were just about okay at 2 ounces of cognac, but absolutely started singing at 2.25 ounces. The point of it all is that if your particular bottle of cognac doesn’t make a great Japanese cocktail, try adding a little more or a little less. It might come at its own expense.

Organ: Orgeat has two main types – the lighter, marzipan-like, floral type and the deep, rich, nutty type (this is an oversimplification, of course, but workable for our purposes). You absolutely need the latter for this cocktail. The brands I’ve tried that work for this are Small Hands Foods, Liber & Co., and Liquid Alchemist. I’m sure there are more.

Read  The broken US economy breeds inequality and insecurity. Here’s how to fix it | James K Galbraith

You can make your own if you feel like it, but watch out for recipes that call for extra bitter almonds, like Amy Stewart in the Drunk Botanist reminds us that “it contains enough cyanide to be lethal at a dose of fifty to seventy nuts.” You’re obviously not going to drink enough of this Orgeat to kill yourself, but how much cyanide are you looking for today?

Bitter: Thomas himself called for “Böker’s Bitters” in all of his bitter recipes, but today we mostly make Angostura. A few enterprising folks have attempted to recreate this lost mid-18th-century bitter style, and while they do well here, one of the things that sets Angostura apart from its competitors – and what my testing found, is that these reproductions of Böker are in it Missing cocktail in particular – that’s Angostura always good, while Böker’s was good with some cognacs but not good with others.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button