Another classic cocktail for the weekend. And after posting the Ancient Mariner, a tiki drink with a hard-to-find ingredient in allspice dram, we decided to go for a cocktail you can make almost anywhere. And the Pegu Club has been made and enjoyed just about everywhere.
The Pegu Club is named after an old-time (and now defunct) British colonial club in Rangoon,
Burma Myanmar. As with many colonial clubs they had their own cocktail, in this case a mixture of London dry gin (the British need their gin), Cointreau (or orange curacao), lime juice and a few bitters. A simple drink, but a very good one. And if you just thought “margarita with gin”, you are onto something. The Sidecar begets the Pegu Club and soon enough you get a Margarita. Old recipe + new booze= new cocktail. And so it goes.
Cocktail historians track the Pegu Club back to at least the 1920’s, when the drink became popular worldwide. It is listed as a popular cocktail in Harry Craddock’s Savory Cocktail Book from the 1930’s. Then after World War II, the Pegu faded from view as other cocktails emerged. But good cocktails never die, and sometimes they don’t fade away either. They re-emerge. Luckily the Pegu Club is making a comeback. It certainly helps that Audrey Sanders, widely considered one of the best bartenders in the world, opened her bar “The Pegu Club” in NYC many years ago and helped spur the cocktail revival. If you name your bar after a drink, it had better be good.
And it is very good. Openly sour, but smooth and with enough sweetness from the Cointreau and spice from the bitters, the Pegu Club goes down
almost too easy. But as it was a “club” drink, the Pegu Club is still an elegant creation. If you have to put on a collared shirt (or, god forbid, dress-up) this weekend, the Pegu Club would be an excellent companion. And if you are grilling and listening to baseball on the radio with your family, and we hope you are, the Pegu Club can hold its own.
As for making the Pegu Club, most recipes agree on the basic ingredients. Some use 2 dashes of Angostura, others a dash of Angostura and a dash or orange bitters. Both work, the Angostura-only version is a bit spicier. We like to include the orange bitters. The gin should be London dry gin, the traditional juniper-forward gin most of us are familiar with. We use Tanqueray, but Beefeater, Brokers or Gordon’s will all work. As for the orange curacao, we use Cointreau and most recipes also suggest it, but use what you have and simply adjust for sweetness if needed. The last piece of the recipe, the lime juice, is where you find some real differences. Some recipes add a little (a few dashes), some a lot (3/4 oz.). We tend to look to David Wondrich to help us get the right recipe, and he suggests 3/4 oz. of lime juice. We like his version.
Now you might think that a British cocktail by way of Burma is a strange fit for an American holiday like Memorial Day. But since America led the revival of the drink, we think we can claim it as “ours”. After all the Pegu Club is in New York City these days…Have a great weekend!
The Pegu Club Cocktail:
- 2 oz. London dry gin
- 3/4 oz. Cointreau or orange curacao
- 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Lime wedge for garnish (optional)
- Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, coupe or flute. Garnish with lime wedge, if you like. Serve.