Better Know a Classic: Algonquin Cocktail

Algonquin Cocktail

1 1/2 Whiskey (rye is traditional, here I used bourbon) [Woodford Reserve]
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth [Dolin]
3/4 oz Pineapple Juice

Combine ingredients, shake with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with charred pineapple wedge

Well here we are, the final installment of my Bar Starter Kit series.  In the previous posts, we covered a gin and orange liqueur via the Pegu Club, and a few other supporting players (Aperol, maraschino liqueur and sweet vermouth) in the Cherrycano.  Now we turn to bourbon and dry vermouth to bring it all home.  And just like we started this whole thing with the Pegu Club, I’m going to focus on a classic once again – the Algonquin Cocktail.

First a bit of history.  The Algonquin is named after a hotel in midtown Manhattan that hosted the infamous Algonquin Round Table – a mix of journalists, authors, and literary critcs who met at the hotel for lunch every day for the better part of 10 years (1919-1929).  Here, the likes of Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Robert Benchley and others traded stories, fired barbs at each anther, matched wits and generally had a grand old time.  Despite it being the middle of Prohibition, they managed to do their fare share of drinking.  But this was a martini crowd, so it’s unlikely any of them actually drank an Algonquin Cocktail.  Nevertheless, this drink is forever tied to the “Vicious Circle”, and is one everyone should keep in their arsenal.

The classic Alqonquin calls for rye whiskey, dry vermouth and pineapple juice.  Since we’re doing this Bar Starter Kit thing, I opted for bourbon instead of rye, though either of those is perfect for getting your home bar up and running.  The bourbon version will be slightly sweeter though.


The difference between bourbon and rye comes is in the mash bill.  Bourbon has to be at least 51% corn, while rye must contain 51% rye (hence its spicier flavor).  Bourbon is my first true spirit crush, so that’s why I’m including it instead of rye.  Woodford Reserve is a bottle you can always find in my house (~$30), but there plenty of solid bourbons under $25 too.  Four Roses Yellow Label, Evan Williams, Old Granddad are just a few

Dry Vermouth is similar to its sibling, sweet vermouth, in that its a fortified wine with herbs and spices added.  It’s more dry, as the name implies, thanks to less residual sugar, and the herbaceousness is more pronounced.  Dolin and Noilly Pratt are two of my favorites.

When you mix these up in an Algonquin, you get lots of flowers and hints of the tropics on the nose, from the dry vermouth as well as pineapple.  The sip starts off tart, but smooths out as the whiskey makes its way forward.  Pineapple makes for a slightly creamier mouthfeel, and also provides most of the sweetness to the drink.  The finish is more bourbon, followed by a nice crisp shot thanks to the vermouth.

By now, you have 6 bottles in your bar, and hopefully you’re beginning to see the possibilities unfolding before you.  I covered three drinks in this post, plus mentioned a few more in the last post.  Now with dry vermouth and bourbon, a whole new world opens up.  Manhattans, Perfect Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Whiskey Sours, Martinis (wet and dry) – these are all now at your disposal.  What’s more, you now have the tools to experiment.  That’s how I came up with the New Amsterdam, one of my earliest creations back when my bar could be described as modest at best.  Or you can make a slightly tamer Red Hook, swapping out Punt e Mes in favor of sweet vermouth.  Lighter Negronis can be in your glass,  using Aperol instead of Campari.  Want something a little more refreshing?  Grab some ginger beer and limes and you’re in Mule country (Gin-gin Mule or Kentucky Mule, whatever’s your pleasure).

The point is, don’t think you need a ton of bottles to have a respectable bar.  In the last three posts, using just six bottles, I covered about fifteen drinks.  That’s more than enough to keep your guests coming back for at least a few parties.  Just make sure you have plenty of lemons, limes, and Angostura bitters on hand.


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