Now that December is underway and the first day of Christmas is only a week away, it’s time to focus on cocktails for the holidays. After all, this time of year is when most of us do the bulk of our entertaining, and with all that going on who has the time to comb through books looking for cocktail recipes? Well, besides me—but that’s the sort of thing I enjoy doing.
Entertaining has been on my mind recently; I compiled some tips for organizing a cocktail party over on Menuism and I’m busy planning my own dinner party for Saint Lucia Day. It can be a daunting task to get it all done, and I’ve been busily bookmarking recipes since early November with the ultimate goal of making December run smoothly—and hopefully just a little bit tipsy as well.
The East India House Cocktail comes from Charles H. Baker, Jr.’s sadly out-of-print The Gentleman’s Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask, a book full of great recipes and formulas gleaned from Baker’s travels around the world. Born on Christmas Day in 1895, Baker was a well-known gourmand and writer who traversed the globe reporting for magazines like Esquire and Gourmet (itself now sadly out-of-print), and the culinary contents of those stories became the basis for his first and second Gentleman’s Companions. This recipe is taken from the 1946 edition—or at least from the transcribed copy that I feel fortunate to possess.
Shake all ingredients well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel and serve.
Robert Hess has said about this drink that it has a wonderful, approachable flavor, “suitable to both beginners as well as experienced drinkers.” I have to concur—it is smooth and fruity but not too sweet, with a lovely spice character from the Angostura bitters. It has a light body and a pretty amber-red color that just screams “Christmas!” when paired with the lime garnish. Further, the ingredient list is short and simple and I am willing to bet that this would make a killer punch. One 750mL bottle of cognac would make enough punch for twelve people or so (more if your guests aren’t big drinkers), but be careful with the sweeteners when you increase the servings. The amount of sugar in a single cocktail tends to taste excessive when made en masse. Either way, this one is sure to be a hit.