Last night as I was catching up on news of the healthcare debate in the Senate, I felt myself in need of stiff drink. So I got out my cocktail shaker and made myself an Oriental Cocktail. The Oriental Cocktail is a simple and refreshing potation composed of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, orange liqueur and lime. While always a delightful drink, what makes the Oriental Cocktail so appropriate to the occasion is its backstory.
According to Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book” (1930), where the recipe was first published, “In August, 1924, an American Engineer nearly died of fever in the Philippines, and only the extraordinary devotion of Dr. B— saved his life. As an act of gratitude the Engineer gave Dr. B— the recipe of this Cocktail.” Dr. B—, who was clearly a true humanitarian, chose to share this recipe with the world.
Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act, as well as any likely successor legislation, will not allow for one to pay their medical bills with cocktail recipes—and believe me, I’ve tried. Regardless, the Oriental Cocktail remains a reminder (at least to me) that there were and are devoted doctors out there who simply want to treat their patients, come what may of the payments.
The Oriental Cocktail
- 3 tbsp. of rye whisky
- 1½ tbsp. sweet (red) vermouth
- 1½ tbsp. orange liqueur
The juice of half a lime (approximately 1 tbsp.)
Fill a cocktail glass with ice water (to chill the glass). Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake well. Pour the ice water out of the cocktail glass then fill the glass with the strained contents of the cocktail shaker. Enjoy.
Note on ingredients: For the rye whiskey, Rittenhouse Bonded Rye would be my choice, but any moderately priced, spicy rye should work. Regarding the vermouth, Kedem works reasonably well, but if you are going to be traveling abroad you can get much better kosher genuine Italian vermouth in Israel, Canada and Western Europe. The original recipe calls for using Orange Curaçao as the liqueur, and Senior’s Curaçao works very well. However I’ve also made the cocktail using Cointreau as the liqueur, which changes the flavor profile of the drink slightly, but is also very appealing.
By Gamliel Kronemer