Since we’ve been on a gin-and-orange kick, I thought I’d add the Stork Club Cocktail to our list of Prohibition-era drinks. The Stork was famous mainly for its celebrities and its “New Yorkiness,” but its flagship cocktail is worth notice, too.

Society journalist Lucius Beebe focused on the Stork Club’s bar and its patrons in his 1946 Stork Club Bar Book. Snide, opinionated and clever, the Bar Book is partly a wonderful, name-dropping public relations piece for the club, and partly an annotated compendium of cocktail recipes. The cocktails range from old classics to contemporary variations suggested by, and named for, the bright lights of the “saloon society,” Beebe’s term for the movie stars, journalists, politicians and other celebrities who frequented the Stork Club to see, to be seen, and to be gossiped about.

The Stork Club Cocktail, photo © 2011 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Stork Club Cocktail

Beebe attributes the Stork Club Cocktail to the Stork’s service captain, Eddie Whittmer. Its basic ingredients would have been very familiar in the Prohibition era: gin, and sweet, flavorful OJ to cover up the gin’s potentially dodgy character.

The Stork Club Cocktail

  • 1½ oz gin (Hayman’s Old Tom)
  • Juice of ½ orange (½–1 oz orange juice)
  • Dash lime juice (bar spoon lime)
  • Dash triple sec  (bar spoon Cointreau)
  • Dash Angostura bitters
Shake lightly, or stir, with ice until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Optionally express and garnish with orange. 

Nearly all the cocktail books that include the Stork Club interpret “juice of ½ orange” to mean an ounce (30ml) of juice.  When I first started making this cocktail, I was using London dry gins, and an ounce of orange was far too much. The flavors just didn’t blend well, and both the gin and the orange tasted strange. I cut back to a half ounce, and that improved the drink considerably. It got me wondering if Prohibition-era oranges may have been smaller or less juicy than the standard Navel oranges on my grocery shelf.

Still in a pondering mood, I also considered that Prohibition gins would have been all over the map in terms of flavors, so I considered mixing with Hayman’s Old Tom. Hayman’s was a real improvement over the London Dry; its sweeter profile blended more readily with the orange juice, and I was able to mix with three-quarters ounce, and even as much as the traditional one ounce portion with delicious results. (Arguably, you could sweeten by upping the portion of Cointreau; the Hayman’s version is so good that I’m leaving that experiment for another time.)