1934 - Just one year after prohibition was repealed, Squire The magazine, in a citizen attempt to restore standards to a long dormant drink culture, released a list of the 10 worst drinks of the previous decade. There, among what they called the "pansies" was the Brandy Alexander, the Bronx, a 50/50 shaken mix of rum and sweet vermouth called "Fluffy Ruffles" and, for some reason, the Clover Club. .
Well, it wasn't exactly called a "for some reason" thought. This is why:
This is the injustice that followed drinking all his life. The Clover Club is too pretty to be taken seriously. He's the Brad Pitt of cocktails.
In January 1880, an informal dinner of 15 journalists was organized. The social benefits of this association were quickly felt and they formed the Thursday Club, which met every 4th Thursday for almost two years. For various reasons, the group changed brands, and on January 19, 1882, at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, they met a new official name: The Clover Club.
To call it formal, however, was to miss the point. Its membership consisted of 35 men from all sectors of industry, government and law, as well as various other eminent minds. Oscar Wilde was there. There was no specific goal - "a club for social pleasures, the cultivation of literary tastes and the encouragement of hospitable relationships". The only main rule was to have fun: if someone was deemed too heavy, brooding, or dull, they would be heckled without mercy. "The Clover Club," according to the old Waldorf-Astoria bar book, was "made up of literary, legal, financial and business enlightenment of Quaker Town, [who] often dined and tasted, then again.
As no self-respecting drink club could be without its own drink, a Clover Club cocktail was needed. We don't know when or by whom it was invented, but in 1901 it was referenced, and 1908 found published, in William Boothby's The drinks of the world and how to mix them. By then, it was already popular at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, where William Butler Yeats, upon discovering the drink for the first time, is said to have shot three in a row.
The Clover Club organization was more or less dissolved around the First World War and in 1934, Squire calls the now orphan cocktail one of the worst drinks of the previous decade. They're wrong on both counts - it's an exceptional drink, and it's not from the previous decade - but whatever. He had somehow lost his association with the Gentlemen's Club of Outstanding Minds, and became one of the "thoughts." Also in 1949, Esquire Handbook for Hosts incompetently rejects it as "something for the ladies".
And so it is today. Just look at the damn thing:
The pink. The white head. The cocktail glass. The garnish. It seems specifically designed to provoke insecure men. Which is a shame, because here's the thing: Clover Club is wildly tasty.
What's the best recipe for a Clover club?
Over the course of a month, I made all the Clover Club recipes I could find. I tried the grenadine versus the raspberries, the dry vermouth versus the dry vermouth, the adjustment ratios and did several blind trials with 16 different gins, which were reduced to 8 and then to 4, then to a winner. So there you have it, the best recipe from the Clover Club, then, below, I'll explain my choices:
The Clover Club
2 oz of Hendrick Gin
0.75 oz of fresh lemon juice
0.75 oz of simple syrup (1: 1)
1 egg white (about 1 oz)
Add the egg white to the tin. Add the rest of the ingredients as well as the raspberries. Seal, hold firmly and shake dry, without ice, for 5-6 seconds. Add ice, close the cans and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze a lemon zest on top, then discard the zest (for flavor). Garnish with a raspberry, or 2 or 3 on a pick.
Raspberries vs Grenadine: FRESH RASPBERRIES
There's a bit of doubt as to whether it's raspberries or grenadine, and it's heartwarming to find that bartenders have been hesitant from the very beginning. Booth's 1908 recipe calls for grenadine, but adds raspberry syrup "will serve the purpose" while a 1909 recipe calls for raspberry syrup, but says grenadine will work if raspberries are out of season. . So it seems pretty straightforward: Raspberry season is June to October, and pomegranate season is September to February, so before globalization just use what you can get.
That being said, it's 2017 and we can have it all all the time, so use raspberries. Grenadine makes a great drink, but it's not magic. Raspberries, in this, are magic.
As with fresh or syrup, use fresh. The syrup dampens the flavor and the fresh raspberries sing in this drink. The PDT Cocktail Book advises raspberry jam, and again, it's a good drink, but the freshness is always better.
Vermouth vs no vermouth: NO VERMOUTH
Very smart and talented people claim that a spot of dry vermouth improves the drink, and indeed, dry vermouth appears in some of the early recipes. What dry vermouth does is impart complexity - mid tones - to an acid that otherwise relies on its luminosity and radiance.
It is a territory of personal taste, and I tread lightly to disagree with such august opposition. Legendary cocktail historian David Wondrich says vermouth transforms "a usable drink into an amber drink." Equally legendary Julie Reiner, operator who opened a bar in Brooklyn almost 10 years ago and named after this exact drink, chooses the vermouth. On top of that, there are a few quieter choices: Plymouth, sweeter than its big brothers London Dry, and raspberry syrup instead of fresh. Her choices all lend to subtlety and nuance instead of the vibrant, electric sour that I landed on. I admit that I think mine is much better, but obviously it is not incorrect. It's just a difference in taste, and I like it better without the vermouth.
Note: if you use vermouth I have personally found it better with Tanqueray. For me, Tanqueray incorporates the complexity of vermouth best into the biggest drink. I feel like the vermouth spoke too loudly for other gins, even Beefeater.
Imagine my surprise. Plymouth is traditional, in that some very old recipes call for it (although they don't have the selection we enjoy now). I was sure it would be Tanqueray 10, but no - Hendricks' structure and floral nature blend together perfectly. Side by side against your favorite and tell me I'm wrong.
Here are the gins I tested, more or less in order of preference:
Individual notes on the gin:
Hendrick: really offers this brightness that I appreciate. Raspberry depth throughout, enhanced by the floral components of the gin. Strong but sweet, complex and delicious. Perfect.
TOP TIER, WOULD ACCEPT HAPPY ANYTIME:
Beefeater 24: very close second, even won a few blind rounds against Hendrick's, just that Hendrick's won more often. Truly exceptional, brilliant, full of flavor. "No hair out of place." As it warms up, it can betray the warmth of the spirit a bit, but it's a very close 2nd.
Sipsmith: interesting that it would be so close at just 41.6%, but it provides the perfect infrastructure for the drink. Another close 2nd. Allows the raspberry to sing while complementing them with what results in a textured grapefruit semi-bitterness. Really great.
ALWAYS BIG, BUT LIGHTLY PREFER ONE OF THE ABOVE:
Beefeater: Very good, creamy and a little hot. “Like ice cream,” I wrote. Simple but tasty.
Tanqueray: Also extremely good. Starbright and vibrant at first. The gin shows up a bit too much as it warms up, but it's still a great drink.
Tanqueray 10: Same pros and cons as the original from Tanqueray. I thought the grapefruit would come out more, but I get more grapefruit notes on Sipsmith than on this one.
GOOD, BUT BETTER:
Miller's strength at Westbourne: one of my favorites for so many other uses, and almost made the category above. The cucumber comes across as a very interesting green note here, but ultimately distracts from the clarity of the flavor, which I consider to be one of the main strengths of the Clover Club. Okay so.
Plymouth: a little annoying. Taste good, not bad, just a little flat.
The door of death: weighs just a little off balance on this particular drink, but definitely not bad. “Creamy, tasty, good. A bit hot on the finish but good overall.
DO NOT RECOMMEND FOR THIS APPLICATION
Aviation: this gin really claims a different pretension for itself - strong notes of sarsaparilla and a bit of lavender - and that takes attention away from the drink overall. “Not bad - like a spin-off. Makes a beer root clover club. "
Sipsmith VJOP: in both trials it did not foam properly. Flat, hot and uninspiring. I did it again because maybe the non-foaming part was my fault and it didn't lather the second time around either. A disaster.
Plymouth Navy Force: I thought extra proof points would do this favor, but even more removes the flavor than it improves. And there is a strange land of terroir just out of reach that I find unpleasant.
Old Harbor San Miguel Gin: again, a bold new style gin that is flavorful, but too much cilantro for this application. "Green. Plant-based. It's cilantro. Not a bad thing, actually, but no reason to use that gin for that drink unless that's all you've got.
Gin Ford: this brought out an earthy mid-palate from the cocktail and led to a somewhat unpleasant finish. I have no idea where this came from on the gin, but we both put it in the lower half of its heat.
What is a “Clover Club”?
The name "Clover Club" was adopted from a then famous phrase: "While we live we live in clover, when we die we die everywhere." To be "in clover" was to flush with luxury, comfort and happiness, and the expression appeared in the early 1700s, when clover was considered a particularly tasty and fattening meal for cattle.
Where does this sentence come from?
The entire phrase “as we live we live in shamrock…” itself was coined by singer and playwright Samuel Sanford. Sanford was also an actor, as well as a hideous bigot - he rose to fame in the 1850s for writing a fiercely pro-slavery stage version of the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, which he titled "Happy Uncle Tom," or Life Among the Happy. He himself played the black-faced Uncle Tom, and an 1895 article in the Baltimore Morning Herald adoringly reported that "Sanford's life is practically the story of the Negro minstrel in America." What a dick.
A little time put into preparation makes for an enjoyable evening. Drinking cocktails should be a fun and relaxing experience, so take a while to think about ingredients in advance, to avoid any rushing around last minute.
One of the foundations of many cocktails is sugar syrup. This can be prepared in advance. Here’s my tip for easy to prepare simple syrup : Add 200 gm white sugar to 200 ml boiling water. Stir till sugar is dissolved, and liquid is clear. Allow to cool then bottle
If you mix lemon juice 50 : 50 with simple syrup, you should have a solid mid-line sweet-sour balance. But remember, every palate is different. to find your own point of balance, mix 15ml fresh lemon juice with 15ml simple syrup, and then dilute the mix with up to 90ml water. Congratulations, you’ve just made fresh lemonade ! If this tastes too sweet or too sour, adjust by adding a little more citrus or syrup. Using this method of calibration, you can adjust any cocktail recipe to suit your own palate.
Ice is the solo most over-looked ingredient at any home bar - you’ll be surprised how much you can go through. Cocktails need ice like baking needs ovens. If popping to the shops for ice isn’t an option right now, keeping a freezer bag topped up with ice will ensure you don’t run out unexpectedly. For best quality home-made ice, try using a silicone ice tray with a lid, to prevent your ice from absorbing unpleasant odours. And wash your ice tray after each use.
Where possible always go for premium spirits, the freshest herbs, and the best juices you can get your hands on. For instance, the taste difference between cheap juice and pressed juice is more than worth the small extra expense.
Try to use glassware appropriate to your drinks. It’s entirely possible to drink a martini from an old coffee mug, but that misses the point of drinking a martini !
If you can make a Whiskey Sour, you can make a Daiquiri. If you make a mean Negroni, you can riff on a Boulevardier. Once you’ve mastered the Manhattan, have some fun in Brooklyn on your way to Martinez. Cocktails exist in family trees. Once you are comfortable the basics of each category the world is your oyster !
You can pre-mix punches in advance - an old trick from the godfathers of bartending in the 19th century. You can bottle punch and store it in the fridge, ready to use on the day, or later that week. If done properly, quality and consistency are assured. If your punch has a fizzy ingredient, such as champagne, only add this your glass just before serving.
If you follow the Punch Ratio, you can’t go far wrong : 1 part sour ( citrus ) 2 parts sweet ( simple syrup ) 3 parts strong ( spirit ) 4 parts weak ( juices etc ) And don’t shy away from warm spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and mace, to make that punch really sing. Don’t have those spices to hand ? No problem, a few dashes of Angostura bitters will do the trick.
We all have a few unloved ingredients lying around that need using up. For instance, that last bit of red wine in the bottle ? Try drizzling it over your Whisky Sour, and voila, you’ve got yourself a delicious New York Sour ! Do you have some nice but neglected spice mix in the kitchen ? Try mixing a teaspoon or two into your simple syrup as it cools to give your next petit cocktail an added dimension. Seasonal fresh herbs make a wonderful aromatic cocktail garnish.
So now, you’ve hit your stride and you’re getting creative in your home bar. Great ! Our top tip for petit cocktail creation ? Write down the juste specifications as you are making it. It’s not always easy to perfectly recall the recipe for that killer petit cocktail the next day !
If all this sounds like a bit of a chore, then keep an eye open for delivery services available from many local cocktail parcs. After all, with the finer things in life, it’s nice to sit back, relax and let the professionals do all the work.