Category: pegu
Rule 2

Pegus Around the Web: The Gin is In Examines the Greatest Drink of All Time

One of my Twitter buddies, Aaron, who blogs at The Gin is In (@TheGinIsIn) has done a couple of posts in the last day or so on the Pegu. His first post is part of his Cocktails by Consensus series, where he looks at older cocktails whose recipes have become... scattered with time as different people tweak them. He looks at Pegu recipes from various sources, including such world-famous cocktail writers as Dave Wondrich and, um, me.
You? "World famous"? Come on, player....
I didn't say I was very world famous. Or world-respected. Or even regionally respected...
And those aren't your recipes. The main one is Paul Harrington's, and the egg white version is how Peter Dorelli made it for you.
Or even respected on my own blog, apparently. Anyway, Aaron brings up some salient points that are good to keep in mind when working on your Pegus. The most important is that it is very important not to overdo the orange liqueur, whether it be Curaçao, Cointreau, or (shudder) triple sec. Read his post for a full rundown of where different "experts" are on the drink, and how their positions alter the flavor. His post also reminds me that I need to update the main recipe page here to discuss the use of orange bitters. The second Pegu post, done as a followup, is a tasting of the drink with Oxley Dry Gin. I haven't tried that one myself, but it has an old-school, juniper-forward formulation. Aaron is (obviously) a gin guy to begin with, and he enjoys the shading the Oxley gives. He also discusses various orange bitters possibilities, and provides the video I embedded above. As always, read the post for yourself. It is short and on point. I haven't done much with heavy juniper gins, at least in Pegus, for a while, but I'll hearken back to my post on another rather on the nose gin, Broker's. When I wrote that, my own love for gin was still in its infancy, and I didn't particularly like what Broker's did in a Pegu. I like it rather more now. That's not important, but what we can learn from it is. Pegus are lovely cocktails with both juniper-forward London Drys, and more citrusy New Americans, but while the basic flavor remains largely the same with either type of gin, the character changes dramatically. A big, old-school London Dry style of gin makes for a much more assertive, manly drink. It's bracing and stimulative. Lighter gin Pegus are a bit gentler. I have long contended that Pegus, along with Aviations, are great cocktails to use when worming gin into the repertoire of the avowed non-gin drinker. In the case of both drinks, though, it is well to keep in mind that you should stick with the lighter products when you are
Political Controversies
Rule 2

Pegus Around the Web March 2011

Pegu cocktail with lime wedge With Tiki Month 2011 now a fond memory, I want to kick off the return to classics with a reprise of this blog's original mission: Promoting the Pegu! My crack, multi-billion dollar, in-house research team (a.k.a. Google Alerts) continuously scours the internet for mentions of the World's Greatest Cocktail™. It brought me these two very high quality links just yesterday morning, like a sign from the cocktail gods that it is time to return to the classic arena. First is a post from the Drinks sector of Serious Eats. San Francisco: It's Beyond Rangoon for the Pegu Cocktail is a quick hit post that notes the author's discovery of said Pegu at the Comstock Saloon in San Francisco. I've never heard of the place, but I have all the evidence I need to declare it one of that city's premiere establishments. Blogger Mariah Gardner refers to her Pegu as a "dandified limeade", but I'll forgive the sacrilege. Second is a post from iSanté magazine. Blogger Helen Studley talks about bitters in general to entertaining effect in "Secret" Potions on the Backbar. Her example cocktail is, of course, the mighty Pegu. She offers it at the behest of David Wondrich, who "nominates The Pegu Club Cocktail as his choice for the hottest new/old drink." Much as I wholeheartedly support Wondrich's sentiments, I'll quibble with two assertions Studley makes in the same paragraph, one silly and one dead serious. First, Audrey Saunders did not "create" the Pegu. She certainly has done more than anyone else to repopularize the cocktail, and has similarly done great work in establishing one of the more balanced and delicious modern versions. (Serving a 1920s classic today is not always as simple as just following the original recipe. Ingredients change.) But various versions were working their way back into use from the beginning of the modern cocktail renaissance well before Saunders opened Pegu Club in New York. See Paul Harrington's seminal Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century for an example from way back in 1998. Second, Studley refers to the Pegu's brithplace, Burma, as "now Myanmar". No. It is still Burma. The name Myanmar was applied to that land by its current ruling junta as part of their campaign to legitimize themselves. Which name you use for Burma ends up being indicative of support or opposition to the regime. So unless you want to count yourself among the supporters of a bunch of generals who make Col. Gaddafi look like the mayor of Chico, CA, Burma is still the name of the country between India and Thailand. abc
Tiki Month 2011

Tiki Drink: The Pegu-Pegu

The Pegu-Pegu a frozen Tiki version of the Pegu Club Cocktail
OK everybody, admit it. You knew he was going to do this eventually....
Of course I was going to do a Tiki version of a Pegu eventually. But it was a considerably harder challenge than it looked at first blush. To begin with, the Pegu isn't a very Tiki-like drink. It's a classic, three (four) ingredient gin sour, strained, and served in a cocktail glass with a wedge. That's too simple a recipe, presented and garnished too plainly, without any ice to play with. It simply doesn't look, feel. or taste very Tiki. And I couldn't just throw a normal Pegu in a monkey skull mug and call it a day either. If you are going to screw around with perfection needlessly, you need to be over the top about it. Especially when you are going Tiki, the official standard bearer of Over The Top among classic cocktails. First, I decided to make my Pegu-Pegu a blender drink, and whip it smooth while I was at it. This ended up being hugely problematical, but when I made the decision, I was just thinking style. For the garnish, I went for a full-on, mulit-part constructed thingy that even Rick might appreciate. I started with my favorite tattooed lime wedge (already pretty elaborate looking), added a second, and sandwiched a cherry in between on a toothpick. You need to notch the lime wedges after you stick them together, at an angle, and off-center so that the toothpick can rest on the rim of the glass and support the weight. I decided to keep the cocktail glass, as homage for the original and because the new garnish sat best on it. As for the drink, I decided to replace the lime juice with falernum, an iconic Tiki ingredient. My first iteration was a simple one to one replacement of falernum for lime juice. But you combine these ratios with lots of ice to make it smooth and you get a drink that is unrecognizably bland and sweet. Several iterations later, I found that the drink needed more gin, and the gin should be a London Dry, rather than in the New American style. Also, I added fresh lime juice back in, eventually reaching an equal measure with the falernum. Finally, I punched up the amount of bitters, and added orange bitters in as well.
  • 4 oz. london dry gin (Beefeater)
  • 1 oz. Trader Tiki's Falernum
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 5 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
Combine all ingredients in blender with 16 oz. ice. Blend until very smooth. Serve in large cocktail glasses, garnished with two tattooed lime wedges skewered together with a cherry between. Serves two-plus.
I'll likely play with this some more, but for this year, I'm reasonably happy. It isn't instantly recognizable as a Pegu descendant, but all the flavors are there and fairly balanced. I'd like to add more falernum, for the extra layer of exoticism it provides, but It would push things over to too sweet again. This formulation is a tranquil island presentation of the the Pegu's flavors, with little of the imperially bracing punch of the original. Give it a try!abc
Mixology Monday

MxMo LII: Forgotten Cocktails

Really, Dennis? Could you have put this one more on a tee for me? It is Mixology Monday time again, and this month's host is Dennis at Rock & Rye. Here is his charge for this round:
The challenge this month is to bring to light a drink that you think deserves to be resurrected from the past, and placed back into the spotlight. It could be pre-prohibition, post-war, that horrible decade known as the 80′s, it doesn’t really matter. As long as it is somewhat obscure, post it up. If possible, try to keep to ingredients that are somewhat readily available. While we all appreciate the discovery of an amazing cocktail, if we can’t make it, it’s no fun for anyone.
This is just too damn easy, folks. May I present to you a cocktail that has labored in great obscurity, and still labors in far more anonymity than it deserves? Let's try that exotic offering from the late British Colonial Era of Burma, a delicious and exotic gin sour called... How could I do anything else? Three and half years, 600+ posts, and 275,000 visitors ago, I started this entire blog with the purpose of bringing this hardly remembered classic back to the minds of cocktail drinkers everywhere. I'd been pushing this on my own since the turn of the century, badgering every bartender I encountered while traveling around the country killing people into learning the recipe. I can't tell you why I have this obsession schtick, but the last decade has been one long-form version of MxMo 52 for me. There are a variety of ways to make a Pegu, but all have certain things in common. Pegus all are sours made with gin, orange liqueur, lime and bitters. All are light, bracing, delicious, and deceptively potent. This cocktail was created by and for the men who were members of the Pegu Club, an outpost of British culture in the frontier of The Empire in the jungles of Burma. These were men who were men of culture, refinement, and breeding, who simultaneously straddled the globe and bent it to their will (for a time). They appreciated a drink with subtlety and grace, that accompanied that refinement with serious power. A drink, in short, meant for this guy: Here's the first version of the Pegu I ever encountered, in Paul Harrington's important Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century.
  • 3 parts Bombay Sapphire
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine ingredients with ice and shake thoroughly. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a wedge of lime.
This is a delicious drink. It is easy to make, and most reasonably equipped bars (no bar is reasonably equipped without fresh limes for juice) can make it for you. Harrington's Pegu is constructed to capture the feel of the older recipes, while using ingredients readily available in normal bars. For further discussion on this "easily make-able today version vs. classic version" issue, see this post on versions of the Aviation. Harrington's Pegu is still my favorite, and accounts for more than half of the ones I drink myself at home and nearly all of those I have in bars. It's best with mainstream gins, especially floral jobs like Sapphire. The first variation of a Pegu was also the first one made for me by a bartender who already knew of the drink before I told him about it. The man was Peter Dorelli, back in 2000 when he was still head barman at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. My wife and I went to England and France for ten days that Spring. She wanted to see and do a hundred different things in London. I wanted to go to the American Bar—because I figured since the Pegu first saw print in The Savoy Cocktail Book, I ought to be able to order one without giving a class for the first time. It worked. It was a sufficiently unusual drink order that Dorelli came to our table, and sat and talked with me about cocktails for quite a long time. It was wonderful. The drink he brought me looked quite different from what I had expected. And while it tasted just right, the texture was smoother and the color lighter. It was a bit frothy. Apparently he thought all Americans are Health Nazis, since he took a lot of convincing before he admitted that he made his Pegus with a dollop of raw egg white.
  • 3 parts gin
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 tsp.-1 tbsp. egg white
Combine ingredients in shaker with ice and shake very, very thoroughly to combine and leave a light froth. Strain into a cocktail glass and do not garnish.
While just as powerful, a Silver Pegu is even more gentle in the mouth. And less aggressively orangey pink. If you are worried about the dangers of raw egg whites, you have three options:
  1. Buy pasteurized eggs. (The whites are a little less effective than regular)
  2. Consider the amount of disinfectant that tiny amount of egg white will be swimming in.
  3. Live a little.
When I make these (which is rare, as the eggs are a pain), I usually use a big, juniper-heavy gin, like Broker's. The egg white takes the natural softening of the gin in all Pegus and goes almost too far. A good burly gin fights back and comes through admirably. In the ten years I've been pushing this drink, the cocktail world has, to say the least, changed. The range and numbers of fine drinks being served has exploded. Naturally, business has responded by introducing new ingredients and reintroducing old ones to facilitate. Today you will easily find, for the first time in 50-80 years, not only one, but a variety of such ingredients as orange bitters and orange curaçao. Now, you can drink a cocktail much closer to what they were making in the Nineteen Twenties, when the Pegu first made it's name around the globe.
  • 3 parts gin
  • 1 part orange curaçao
  • 1 part lime juice
  • 2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a champagne coupe and garnish with a wheel of lime or a tattooed wedge.
This is pretty close to most early versions of the recipe you find. It is also just about what Audrey Saunders slings in her wonderful Pegu Club lounge in Manhattan. (It'd be wonderful even without that name and signature cocktail... just not as wonderful.) Lighter in color, the Pegu Club is also lighter on the tongue. Interestingly, the orange bitters doesn't do as good a job of softening the juniper, so the Broker's I recommend for the Silver Pegu will ruin a Pegu Club. When making these, I'm much more likely to choose Beefeater, or better yet, a light touch gin like G'Vine or Aviation. For the orange curaçao, I often still use Cointreau, though I've had some good experiments with Creole Shrubb. I strongly advise against Citronage in Pegus. Other curaçaos do other things, and if you've got a good recommendation, please let me know! I'm making a lot more Pegu Clubs lately, in part because the PeguWife prefers them. The chief disadvantage of the Pegu Club is that while any reasonably equipped bar can make a Pegu, only a premium cocktail establishment will have the stuff to make Pegu Clubs. There you have it: Three cocktails, any one of which you can legitimately call a Pegu, and any one of which will make your cocktail snob's heart sing. Not only that, but if there is a good entry gin cocktail for the "Oh I don't drink gin" crowd, this drink is it. Help me out here, have a Pegu yourself, and pass along the good news to ten of your friends! I'll add a few words about the challenges and the rewards of running a cocktail blog called The Pegu Blog. I started this blog almost as an exercise in self-parody of my "obsession" with this drink. But I really do want more people to relearn this great cocktail. I figured out very early on that I couldn't just write about Pegus. As wonderful as the drink is, there is not enough material to keep up regular postings, and no one would read such a monomaniacal set of writings if I tried.
That's OK, Doug. No one reads your writings anyway.
I thought I'd make it through this post without you.
Hey! I'd never miss a Mixology Monday!
So here you are, insulting me. You know, bloggers have sockpuppets to give them a way to praise themselves...
Hence, your exercise in the old self-parody!
Pardon me while I hit my head on the desk.... Regardless of Guy's snotty commentary, I've found that the best way to get you to read about Pegus is to write (hopefully) entertainingly about cocktails in general. Less than 10% of my posts are really about Pegus at all. Thanks for visiting, this Mixology Monday, and I hope you look around the site while you are here, or even subscribe to my feed. Now that you're done, head on back over to Rock & Rye, thank Dennis for all the work he'd done, and enjoy the other forgotten classics we cocktail writers have put together for you! abc
@DAWInship on Instagram