The very first international cocktail competition took place in London in 1930, while the United States was still in the grip of Prohibition. It was won by a man named Tom Buttery, a bartender at the very upscale Berkeley Hotel, and it’s speculated that Buttery’s name for the drink reflected the optimism that’s typically felt of the beginning of a new decade in history. His original recipe contained gin, orange juice, apricot brandy, and Calvados apple brandy, all in equal parts, with a dash of grenadine added in. There are many variations of his recipe, as seems to be the case with many of the classic cocktails, and in 1929, Walter A. Madigan made the drink without the Calvados, kept the name, and was the runner-up at the same cocktail competition in 1939. If I were Buttery, I’d have been more than a little bit upset, but there were no intellectual property rights back then and he would have had little to no recourse. Subsequent versions of this drink altered the measurements of the ingredients or swapped them out altogether. For a number of the Monday Classics I’ve been featuring, I’ve come to rely on Dale DeGroff’s recipes found in his The Craft of the Cocktail book, and today’s drink is no exception. DeGroff lessened the amount of gin and increased the apricot brandy and the orange juice, resulting in a cocktail that is very fruit forward with just enough of a gin backbone to insure that it’s taken seriously.
As with most drinks, the ingredients you use will really have an effect on the how the cocktail tastes, especially in terms of its sweetness level. You’ll want a gin that has the classic juniper/coriander/citrus profile without the addition of a lot of extra botanicals. I chose Liberty gin from Palmer Distilling which is made locally by Walter Palmer in nearby Manyaunk. He follows a traditional old Dutch recipe that includes ingredients that were part of the spice trade during the American Revolution. I’ll be doing a full Barlogue feature on Palmer distilling in the future, but when I visited Walter back in the fall I also picked up a bottle of TRUE Syrups and Garnishes grenadine which is hand crafted in small batches in Washington DC. Made from two different types of pomegranate juice and cane sugar, TRUE’s product contains no high fructose corn syrup or red 40 dye. It’s one of the most authentic grenadines I’ve ever tasted. You’ll want to use fresh orange juice, of course, and a very good quality apricot brandy because those are the 2 flavors that are most forward in this cocktail. I’ve linked you to an article below the recipe that gives a few excellent options. When I tasted this drink I was blown away by how absolutely lovely it is. That’s not a word that’s a regular part of my descriptive vocabulary, but it was definitely the first one that came to mind here. The Golden Dawn would make a phenomenal brunch cocktail that stands head and shoulders above so many others, or it would be the perfect start to an evening full of promise.
The Golden Dawn
Add all ingredients to a the bottom half of a shaker tin and add ice. Shake 20-30 seconds or until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. Enjoy!
*Use a good quality apricot liqueur like Marie Brizard, Rothman & Winter, or Giffard