Pegu Club Cocktail

By Robert Hess

This is a fairly old cocktail which is just now being rediscovered. Dating back to the 1920's this was the house cocktail at the "Pegu Club" in Rangoon. I often use this drink to help people who claim they don't like gin realize that there really isn't anything to be afraid of.

Recipe

Ingredients

2 oz Gin

3/4 oz Orange CuraƧao

1/2 oz lime juice

dash Angostura Bitters

dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Instructions

Stir with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with lime twist.

Comments
cc 26 Nov 2007
9:28 am

thanks for another great episode nice use of contrasting bitters woodsey spice to the warmth of reagans orange well done beautiful stemware also.lime twists have long been a favorite of mine makes one thirst for quality . cc

Robert Hess 26 Nov 2007
9:40 am

Hey Look! I lost some weight! Ok, not really. We just had a slight snafu with the video encoder/compressor and ended up with a slightly out-of-proportion scale for this episode.

Walt 26 Nov 2007
4:14 pm

What great timing!  I just made a Pegu Saturday night following your recipe at the DrinkBoy site which calls for just a teaspoon of lime juice and a full ounce of orange curacao.  It was delicious, to be sure, but a little on the sweet side.  Bumping up the lime juice to a 1/2 ounce and scaling back the curacao to 3/4 ounce should make for a more balanced cocktail.  As always, another great episode!

Robert Hess 26 Nov 2007
4:31 pm

Walt,

The recipe I used in this episode follows more closely the recipe that Audrey Saunders uses at the Pegu Club in New York.

-Robert

Owen Webb 27 Nov 2007
9:49 pm

Great looking drink, can’t wait to try it.  I don’t have any orange curacao, so I might try it with Patron Citronage to start.

Also, Robert, where did you find that glass?  It’s awesome.

Robert Hess 28 Nov 2007
7:17 am

Owen,

The use of Citronage, Cointreau, Triple Sec, etc. will change the profile of this drinks just a little, perhaps unnoticably for some. I find that Orange Curacao has a slightly more “rustic” flavor to it which works well with the other flavors going on here. It’s fairly in expensive, as long as you can find it, and not its “blue” alternative.

As for the glass… that is from an old antique set that I ran across. It’s always fun to keep your eyes out in antique shops for fun little options like this. There is a bar here in Seattle (Vessel), who recently switched out all of their regular glassware for various semi-random antique glasses tha the bar manager (Jamie Boudreau, who has been my guest on some previous episodes) had been slowly collecting over the last year. I love that sort of approach.

-Robert

Anna Crowe 28 Nov 2007
1:15 pm

Talk about a challenge!  You’ve thrown the glove down when you say we who do not care for gin will love the Pegu.  Just discovered your site via NYT; this is great I’d like to return the favor with a favorite of mine:

http://theerrantaesthete.com/

With great cocktails, there must be great conversation.

thanks again,

Anna

Robert Hess 28 Nov 2007
3:45 pm

Anna,
Thanks for stopping by, great little blog you’ve got there.

Perhaps I did do a little gauntlet tossing there, but hopefully not inappropriately. The Pegu Club Cocktail is one that I countlessly make use of to illustrate the accessibility of gin to somebody who claims they don’t like it. I can only think of one occasion where it failed to prove the point.

What I often encouter is people who think there are only two gin cocktails, a Martini, and a Gin & Tonic (believe it or not, even a couple bartenders), and having tried both They have decided that they must not like gin. I love to expose them to the wide variety of other gin cocktails there are, especially those which highlight the great culinary affinity to mixing that gin povides.

-Robert

Owen Webb 30 Nov 2007
6:29 pm

I’ve used the Last Word to introduce people (including myselft, I personally don’t care for gin normally) to gin.  Lots of my friends really enjoy it, ironically however, my gin drinking friend doesn’t care for it.,

I will have to pick up some orange curacao and try to see if I can tell the difference in flavor between that and one made with Citronage (I also have cheap triple sec and Mathilde Orange Cognac, so I have a lot of tasting ahead of me… a happy task at least :)  )

Owen Webb 30 Nov 2007
6:33 pm

Oh yeah, any brand recommendations on the orange curacao?

Ian 9 Dec 2007
9:51 pm

Nice cocktail, and quite new to me. I like gin, so I am keen to try it.

It looks like you were using Bols orange curacao there, which BevMo don’t seem to stock. Any thoughts on DeKuyper as an alternative, or do you think it tastes best with Bols?

Ian 9 Dec 2007
9:57 pm

Nice *looking* cocktail I meant to say, I haven’t tried it yet…

Robert Hess 10 Dec 2007
7:07 am

I don’t have a specific orange curacao to recommend, one issue is that in most areas there will only be one brand available, so it sort of limits your choices. Bols is what I normally have available, and it works quite well. I’ve used DeKuyper in the past as well.

oliver 19 Dec 2007
7:34 am

one of the drinks that are really hard to balance but absolutely delicios if it is balanced with its original recipe (2:1 gin, curacao, just teaspoon lime, bitters). the secret is the curacao. bols and dekuyper are both very sweet, too sweet for this drink. a fantastic one is the curacao of curacao by the senior family because it has a smooth orange flavor and is very little sweet. the perfect effekt of the original recipe (and only of this) is the very fine taste of bitter in a very smooth gin drink with hints of orange.

Robert Hess 19 Dec 2007
8:19 am

Oliver,

Yes, the first published recipe for the Pegu, from Harry MacElhone’s 1927 “Barfiles and Cocktails” was:

Pegu Club Cocktail
1 dash of Angostura Bitters
1 dash of Orange Bitters
1 teaspoonful Lime Juice (Rose’s)
1/6 Curacao (Orange)
2/3 Gin

Which I personally like a lot (although of course with fresh lime juice instead of Rose’s). If you look through various old recipe books, you’ll see several other slight variations that the recipe as gone through. I intentionally used one similar to how they make it at the “Pegu Club” cocktail lounge in New York (www.PeguClub.com), which has breathed a new life into not only this cocktail, but many other classic drinks.

-Robert

Ian 19 Dec 2007
7:33 pm

I made it with the recipe in the video, and thought it was a little too sour for my taste (using Plymouth gin and DeKuyper cura

Robert Hess 19 Dec 2007
7:44 pm

Ian,
Have you tried the alternate version of the recipe I just listed above? It has more of a “citrus backbone” then it does a “sour nature”. So it might be more to your liking.

As for the original cura

Robert Hess 19 Dec 2007
7:46 pm

(for Ian, and others)
I should point out when reading the alternate “recipe” I listed above, it lists “Roses” as the lime juice in use… My recipe instead uses fresh lime juice instead.

Rose’s is best saved for the Gimlet, or nothing at all.

-Robert

Ian 19 Dec 2007
8:04 pm

I will try the alternative recipe, but my drinking habits extend only to 1 drink a day, so it will have to wait for another day :-)  As it happens, I didn’t have a fresh lime to hand today, but I did have a lemon, so I experimented.

If I scale up the alternative recipe (multiply all quantities by 3), I get as follows:

2 oz gin
1/2 oz cura

Ian 19 Dec 2007
8:08 pm

Of course, I’ve just realised that “2/3” is probably not 2/3 oz, but what would it be then? (Showing my ignorance…)

Robert Hess 19 Dec 2007
8:19 pm

Yeah, sometimes that “2/3” stuff can be confusing. Here is a good recipe to try, based on the above listed one, but with slightly different ratios:

Pegu
2 ounces gin
1 ounce orange cura

Douglas Winship 12 Feb 2008
12:51 pm

Robert,
I am crushed that I took a hiatus form blogging, both writing and reading, when you did this, still better late than never!
Since I write a small blog (killingtime.com/Pegu/) devoted to expanding awareness of the Pegu, I can’t thank you enough for doing this video.
Of course, it wouldn’t be half as fun if I agreed with everything you did!
I like a ratio of 3:1:1, which still is enough to tame the ginniness, but gives a drier, more elegant cocktail. And while I fiddle with the lime juice, bitters, and (especially) with the kind of Gin, I always use only Cointreau.
Finally, I like to shake! Sometimes I add a teaspoon of egg white, as I learned at the American Bar at the Savoy, which makes shaking necessary. But even when I don’t, my tastes run to the shards of ice and cloudier look.
People should try both ways!

marcy goldstone 5 Apr 2008
2:46 pm

When I give a party I will use any of these recommended recipes for The Pegu.
Bravo !

blair frodelius 8 Apr 2008
9:06 am

Robert,

I was lucky enough to have my local spirits store order me some Curacao of Curacao.  It makes a fantastic Pegu with Plymouth or Beefeater.  Still waiting for the Angostura Orange Bitters to become available.  At the moment I’m using Fee’s.

Blair

PS - Finally procured an Ebaloy!  Hurray!

Andy Westrate 19 Jun 2008
6:11 am

I’m struck by the similarity of this drink to the Stork Club cocktail, which to me seems to differ only in calling for orange juice instead of orange bitters.  I’m going to have to try a side-by-side comparison, once I can find orange bitters in my local stores.

I wonder if it’s just coincidence, or whether one club was trying to recreate the drink of another?

BTW, I’ve really enjoyed the series.  It’s prompted me to start mixing drinks again, which I haven’t been doing for a while.

Kyle 16 Feb 2010
2:47 pm

Just tried this for the first time tonight—though I used the recipe from Robert’s book, which I believe matches up with the “alternate” recipe he listed here.  The alternate version definitely has a lot of orange to it, but you can definitely taste the gin, though I’d like to try it with some different gins.

I used Plymouth gin, which I’ve found to be about the smoothest mixing gin I’ve ever tried—a martini with Plymouth is just ridiculously smooth.  But I’ve also got some Tanqueray, and I’m curious to see how the intense juniper that Tanqueray has works in the Pegu Club cocktail.

I’m just using cheap and readily available Dekuyper Orange Curacao—I’ve never been quite sure about orange curacao—Coinatreau has always been considered the top-shelf triple sec, but I don’t really know what a top-shelf orange curacao would be.  Something like Clement Creole Shrubb?  I’ve heard of people using that in place of orange curacao before.

blair frodelius 16 Feb 2010
3:00 pm

Kyle,

I’d recommend Senor Curacao of Curacao, which is the most traditional and excellent style you can buy.  Make sure you get the clear version, not the orange or the blue.  If budget is a concern, you can try Patron Citronge.  Cointreau works extremely well, too.

The creole shrubb can be used, but it will lend a different character altogether, as it is made with rum.

Cheers!

Blair
http://goodspiritsnews.spaces.live.com

Robert Hess 16 Feb 2010
3:08 pm

Where Cointreau is “top shelf” Triple Sec, Grand Marnier is top shelf curacao. In fact, just as Cointreau used to list itself as Triple Sec on its label, so too did Grand Marnier once refer to itself as “Curacao Marnier”.

An excellent read for “orange liqueur” insights is this article:
http://ohgo.sh/archive/orange-liqueur-history/
by Jay Hepburn.

Kyle 16 Feb 2010
4:05 pm

Thanks both Blair and Robert. 

Blair: any reason you swear by the clear Senor Curacao over the orange version?  I think for the Pegu Club, orange curacao works well because it lends a wonderful color to the drink—otherwise only the angostura bitters would add any color.

Also, I just tried the drink with Tanqueray—definitely a bit different, though that good orange base is still there.  One thing I forgot about is that while Plymouth is 82.4 proof, Tanqueray is something like 94 proof—which comes through in the Tanqueray version, which has a sharper “bite” to it.

Ian 16 Feb 2010
6:29 pm

“you can try Patron Citronge”

Please no, good heavens no!!!

Patron Citronge is the most vile alcoholic concoction ever put inside a pretty glass bottle. It is disgusting!

If you want to know what it is like, imagine surgical alcohol with some orange oil added to it. You might use it for disinfecting wounds, but please don’t think about drinking it.

I have a bottle I bought a long time ago as an experiment, but I can’t find any way to use it up. There is no cocktail I know of with enough additional flavor to tame the Citronge and make it drinkable. It destroys anything you add it to.

I know Citronge is cheap, but save up your money and buy Cointreau instead. Your Margaritas will love you for it.

blair frodelius 16 Feb 2010
6:50 pm

Ian,

I’d have to disagree with you here.  Patron Citronge does have a bitter quality to it, but nowhere near as sickly and artificially sweet as Hiram Walker Triple Sec.  I’d avoid that like the plague.  DeKuyper is slightly better. 

Cointreau is my orange liqueur of choice, but I still feel Patron Citronge will do in a financial pinch.

For an interesting experiment, try a 50/50 blend of Cointreau and Grand Marnier when a triple sec is called for in a recipe. 

As for using clear Senor Curacao, I guess I’m just a purist.  No reason to add color when it doesn’t need to be there.  :)  (Why someone thought orange liqueur should be coloured blue is beyond me!)

Blair
http://goodspiritsnews.spaces.live.com

Ian 16 Feb 2010
7:13 pm

Blair,

I’m afraid we will have to agree to disagree on this :-)

I have bottles of Cointreau and Citronge in front of me. On the nose Cointreau has a wonderful deep warm complexity of orange notes, whereas Citronge has a medicinal, almost industrial aroma of alcohol with a sharp and one dimensional hint of orange carried behind it. There is no depth or complexity there.

When I put Citronge in a drink some kind of off-taste comes through, perhaps the bitterness you speak of. I have tried several times, but I cannot bring myself to like it.

Anyway, let others try it and see what they think :-) Taste is personal, right?

Allyen Wilson 28 Dec 2011
9:01 pm

This is my third gin based cocktail of Robert’s that I have tried in the last two weeks. The Pegu is terrific, though I made it with Cointreau since my cabinet was short Curacao. Of the three I have tried the Jasmine and Pegu are terrific and hard to pick a favorite. The Delmonico was good but not up to the other two. Thanks Robert for getting me into experimental mode.

Robert Hess 29 Dec 2011
11:54 am

The Pegu Club cocktail is indeed a wonderful drink, one of my favorites as well.

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