Tiki Drink: London Sour


The London Sour and I were born in the same year. What year? Never you mind, buster. Suffice it to say that it was a tumultuous year, where American military aggression stained our souls and the rest of the world was damned ungrateful for what we did for them, civil rights were torn by controversy over whose inalienable rights were more inalienable, there were violent clashes in the streets between groups of citizens who for the most part didn’t know what the hell the other (or indeed, their own) side was talking about, and the Russians were making trouble.

So, you were born in 2016?

1965. Jerk.

Anyway, the London Sour is a Trader Vic original, which you can find in Beachbum Berry’s Intoxica. I want to blog about it for two reasons. One, it is a Tiki drink that uses scotch as the base spirit. Scotch! And two, it is instructive about the progression of Tiki historically.

Please note that neither of those reasons is that the London Sour is good. Because, spoiler alert, it isn’t terribly. It is quite drinkable, of course. Vic didn’t make crappy drinks. But by 1965, he seems to have clearly been coming to the end of his powers. The Tiki drink oeuvre was similarly reaching its senescent phase as well. The dark, exotic, unctuous… unfamiliar profile of the early work was sliding into a more modern, lighter flavor palate.

LONDON SOUR

  • 2 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz orgeat
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz blended scotch

Shake well with small ice, and pour unstrained into a lowball glass. Garnish with leftover citrus.

This is a pleasant, utterly unchallenging drink. The scotch comes through, sure, but manages to be blandly unremarkable, despite being scotch in a Tiki drink. There is far more orange juice than should be present in any drink beyond a screwdriver, which the London Sour tastes mostly like.

What is missing in this drink is the flavor alchemy that I so love in early Tiki drinks. You can pick out every ingredient in this drink from the sip. That’s not a bad thing in many cocktails, but I think an important part of a Tiki drink is the creation of new, unidentified flavors.


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  1. Frederic

    19 February

    There was a bit of discussion in Jeff Berry’s books and elsewhere as to whether Trader Vic gave away his exact recipes in the book or a step-down version (whether to make his drinks better or to make them more accessible to others). I believe it was on the section on Zombies.

    Actually checking my blog, I haven’t made this one myself. I have made the Scotch-based Starboard Light that is a bit more Tiki compliant for it has the honey-passion fruit combo of Don’s Special Daiquiri but with lemon instead of lime plus egg white.

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