Hercules Recipes

We last talked about Hercules while making the New Life Cocktail.  I’ve since made two iterations of the recipe.

Hercules #2

1 bottle Navarro Chardonnay
1/4 cup Yerba Mate
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp Gentian
2 tsp Cinchona Powder
1/2 tsp Wormwood flowers and leaves
4 whole cloves
Dried Peel from 1 Seville Orange
1 stick Ceylon Cinnamon
1/2 tsp whole coriander seed
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Apple Brandy

Method: Combine all ingredients other than brandy, bring to 140 degrees for 10 minutes. Strain off solids, cool, and add Brandy. Refrigerate.

This version received many, uh, ambivalent responses.  “I’ve never tasted anything like this before.” “Boy is that bitter.”  “That flavor really sticks with you!”  More constructive criticism was that a stronger spice component would be more enjoyable.  I also thought it would benefit from a richer wine base.

Hercules #3

1 Stick Cassia Cinnamon, crushed
2 tsp. Coriander Seed, crushed
8 Whole Cloves, crushed
1 tsp. Quinine Powder
1 tsp Gentian Root
1/4 Cup Yerba Mate
1 bag peppermint tea
Rind 2 Seville Oranges
Rind 1/2 Valencia Orange
1/2 cup Raw Sugar
750ml Quady Elektra Orange Muscat
1/4 cup Osocalis Brandy

METHOD: Combine spices, peel, yerba mate and wine. Heat to 140 degrees. Add mint and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Filter through chinois and add Brandy. Let stand for at least a day. Pour liquid off of sediment and through a coffee filter and bottle.

While there is no way I can judge whether I am getting closer to what Hercules might have tasted like, this is actually a fairly enjoyable beverage.  I’ll have it along for tonight’s Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic.  Stop by after 6 and ask for a taste.

New Life Cocktail

Hercules remains, more or less, a mystery.

To summarize, for many years because of a description in Stan Jones’ Barguide which called it an Absinthe substitute, it was thought to be exactly that.  Something like Ricard or Pernod.

However, when I started making these Savoy recipes, none of them made taste sense when made with Pernod or Ricard.  They were just awful.

About this time, I saw an advertisement that popped up from time to time on the front page of the cocktaildb. It was for a Dutch product called Hercules which was a aromatized and fortified red wine. I made a couple cocktails which call for Hercules with Cocchi’s Barolo Chinato and they made a lot more sense.

I started doing more digging and turned up some advertisements in Google Books for a product called Hercules available at about the same time the Savoy Cocktail Book was published.

HERCULES “HEALTH – COCKTAILS ARE SERVED AT LEADING BARS. “Hercules” can be had plain, when so preferred, or as the chief and most fascinating ingredient…that Create Appetite and Stimulate Digestion “Hercules” Wine Aperitif contains the phenomenal properties of Yerba-Mate, which has won the high opinion…TO TEST “HERCULES” WINE APERITIF send fi/6 for a full-sired bottle, carriage paid.
We will despatch by return. Later supplies must be obtained of Wine…

Instead of being an Absinthe substitute, Hercules turned out to be a wine based aperitif one of whose ingredients was Yerba Mate!

In addition, a London friend, Jeff Masson asked around about it.  Turned out that a friend of his was acquainted with some of the ex-Savoy bartenders.  While the most recent bartender didn’t recall Hercules, his predecessor at the bar did!

From Jeff:

Did a little more research into this mystery ingredient but found nothing amazing.
I spoke to a friend who knows Peter Dorelli, the former head bartender of the Savoy, very well. I asked him to find out what he could.
Peter had never tasted the ingredient but called his former head bartender, Joe Gilmore, who is now around 85!
He remembered Hercules quite well and described it as a cross between an aperetif and a bitters. It was light pink in colour and bore no resemblance to Absinthe. He didn’t have any real suggestions for a substitute but mentioned Dubonnet would not be appropriate.
Not conclusive but quite interesting.

OK, a bitter wine based aperitif flavored with Yerba Mate.

Current try at reproduction:

1 bottle Navarro White Table Wine
1/4 cup Yerba Mate
1 tablespoon Gentian
1 clove
Dried Peel from 1 Seville Orange
1/2 stick Ceylon Cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Havana Club 8 Year Rum

Method: Combine all ingredients other than rum, bring to 140 degrees for 10 minutes. Strain off solids, cool, and add rum. Refrigerate.

I purposely kept this simple, to try and get more of a feel for appropriate taste combinations with the Yerba Mate. Initial thoughts are that it has too much gentian to be drunk on it’s own for pleasure. But it’s close. Tasting other vermouth I have around, I find many seem to have more culinary herbs in the middle flavors than this. Might have to experiment with including some thyme, mint, or oregano next time. I’m also not sure if the color came from the wine or if it was colored, so skipped that for the time being. Since most vermouth is made on a white wine base, I would guess it was colored, perhaps with cochineal or similar.

New Life Cocktail

New Life Cocktail

1/4 Hercules. (1/2 oz “Hercules”)
1/4 Bacardi Rum. (1/2 oz Montecristo Rum)
1/2 Cointreau. (1 oz Cointreau)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

That’s a lot of Cointreau, but every other recipe for the New Life I can find uses the same proportions, so I guess it isn’t a typo.

While it is sweet, it is kind of tasty. However, drinking it, I was reminded of the unique flavors of Armazem Viera’s Esmeralda Cachaca. Remaking it with Cachaca instead of the Montecristo rum did make for a much more interesting cocktail.  Interesting that these two South American flavors would compliment each other.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Health Cocktail

Before the last time I was out East, I got a note fro LeNell’s saying that they’d managed to find an Americano of some sort. It was Red, in some sense, unlike the Cocchi Americano.

But given recent Hercules information, it still seemed interesting.

On its own the flavor is nice, if you like this sort of thing. Somewhere between Barolo Chinatos I’ve tried and Byrrh. To be honest I’m not entirely sure if it is a white wine or red wine base. Still, probably closer in bitterness to Barolo Chinato than Byrrh.

So when you’ve learned that Hercules was, “a cross between an aperitif and a bitters,” this Americano seems like a good idea!

Health Cocktail

1/3 Brandy. (1 oz Cerbois VSOP Armangac)
2/3 Hercules. (2 oz Americano of some sort)

Stir slightly in ice and strain.

Any desired spirit can be used instead of Brandy.

So, yeah, the idea of using this Americano, for this cocktail, seems pretty random, but on the other hand, like I’ve been led to do it.

Definitely enjoyable!

Interestingly, this Americano seems sweeter and less bitter after being mixed with the Armangac than before.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Genevieve Cocktail

Genevieve Cocktail
1/3 Hollands Gin. (3/4 oz Anchor Genevieve Genever style Gin)
2/3 Hercules. (1 1/2 oz Byrrh Assemblage, 1/2 teaspoon Marteau Verte Classique Absinthe)

Stir well and strain into cocktail glass.

I was really quite excited to be able to make the Genevieve cocktail with Anchor’s Genevieve Gin. Not only that, but this cocktail turned out really well. Just darn tasty. With the elegance of the Byrrh and the Juniper and Star Anise notes of the Anchor Gin working incredibly well with the Anise and savory notes of the Marteau Absinthe.

Unfortunately, recent developments have thrown the nature of Hercules back into flux. Likely this interpretation is completely wrong, from the red wine base of the Byrrh to the dash of Absinthe. Le Sigh.

If you want to give it a try, more or less, as above, Byrrh is a bit of a hard thing to come by. I’d suggest substituting a lighter style ruby port (Warre’s Warrior or similar) and a drop or two of Angostura Bitters.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Gene Corrie Cocktail

Gene Corrie Cocktail

1/2 Hercules. (1 oz YerbaMate/Steepsinthe/Dubonnet Mixture)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 oz Tanqueray Gin)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

I suspect the Gene Corri(e) here is Eugene Corri, a rather well known boxing referee who died in 1933. On December 7, 1907, at the fight between Gunner Moir and Tommy Burns, he became the first referee to officiate inside a boxing ring.

He also wrote a Memoir, which is still in print:

Refereeing 1000 Fights – Reminiscences of Boxing
Originally published in 1915, this is a memoir of Eugene Corri’s career as a boxing referee. He refereed all the top fights of the day and speaks at length of both the fights themselves and the boxers who fought them, all of whom he knew well. Well-illustrated with black and white photographs, this is a fascinating glimpse into a vanished era. Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. Hesperides Press are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork. Contents Include – The Lucky-Tub of Memory – The Carpentier-Gunboat Smith Fight – Barbardier Wells, with a Word or Two about Carpentier – Robert Fitzsimmons – Willie Ritchie and Freddy Welsh – Matt Wells, Sereant Basham,and Johnny Summers – Wilde The Wizard – Some Boxing Storeys – More Boxing Storeys – Boxing in the War.

Also found this tidbit in the New York times archive from June 19, 1921:

CORRI IS ON WAY HERE.; English Boxing Referee on the Adriatic, Which Docks Friday.

The White Star liner Adriatic is due to arrive from Southampton and Cherbourg early Friday morning with several English and French sportsmen who are coming to see the Dempsey-Carpentier fight on Saturday and have booked their tickets in advance.

The “Battle of the Century,” on July 2, 1921, between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier was the first “million dollar gate” in boxing history. It took the Manassa Mauler 4 rounds and less than 11 minutes to knock the Frenchman Carpentier to the canvas. The fight attracted the largest crowd to a sporting event up to that time, and was one of the first fights broadcast on radio.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Cota Cocktail

Cota Cocktail
Cota Cocktail

1/4 Hercules. (3/4 oz Cocchi Barolo Chinato)
1/4 Cointreau. (3/4 oz Cointreau)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Bombay Gin)

Shake (stir – eje) well and strain into cocktail glass.

The ingredient Hercules continues to confound.

Cocktaildb’s ingredient database (and the Jones’ Bar Guide) suggest it is an Absinthe substitute. However, making these cocktails with any modern Absinthe substitutes, they turn out to be rather horribly balanced. They are usually OK, if I reduce the Absinthe substitute to a dash.

Sometimes when I visit the Cocktaildb home page (and I do quite often) one of the random pictures that shows up is what appears to be a label or advertisement in dutch for something that appears to be called “Hercules”.

Hercules Advert?

I don’t know Dutch; but, the words like “Versterkende Bloedwijn” and “Kina Wijn” on the advertisement suggest it is for some sort of red wine based Quinquina.

Knowing that 3/4 oz Pastis, 3/4 oz Cointreau, and 1 1/2 oz Gin is going to be pretty undrinkable, I decided to experiment with a couple of the red wine Quinquinas I had around. The first try, with Byrrh Assemblage, was pretty lackluster.

Even though I suspect it is fairly unrelated to the intended Savoy “Cota Cocktail”, the formula above, with the Barolo Chinato, was actually quite delicious. Similar to a slightly sweeter and orangier Negroni. Maybe call it the “Coda Cocktail”?

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

The Mystery of Hercules

Angler Cocktail

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.
2 Dashes Orange Bitters. (1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters 1 Dash Fee’s Orange Bitters)
1/3 Hercules. (3/4 oz Spice infused Dubonnet Rouge)
2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Beefeater Dry Gin)

Shake (stir, please) well and strain into cocktail glass. (Garnish with a lemon twist.)

Embarrassing cocktail geekery: In his book, “Cocktails: How to make them” Robert Vermeire notes, “This cocktail is very popular in Bohemia and Czecho-Slovakia. It was introduced by V.P. Himmelreich.” Also, instead of Hercules, he calls for “Vantogrio”, which he describes as, “a local non-alcoholic Syrup.” No idea about the nature of “Vantogrio”. Vermeire suggests garnishing the cocktail with a lemon twist, which seems like a fine idea to me.

Hercules is the first completely puzzling ingredient we come across in the Savoy Cocktail Book.

To this day no one has turned up an unopened bottle and only a few details have been discovered regarding what sort of ingredient it might have been or what it might have tasted like.

Up until relatively recently many of the leading lights of the cocktail scene, based on some information in Stan Jones’ “Jones’ Complete Bar Guide,” had assumed that Hercules was an “Absinthe Substitute.”

While we don’t know whether that is the case, or to what extent it may be true, recently, over on the “Hercules, Absinthe Substitute? Red Wine Aperitif?” topic on eGullet.org advertisements and other information have been uncovered giving us a few additional pieces of the puzzle.

We have discovered conclusive evidence it was a fortified wine aperitif, spiced, and juiced up with Yerba Mate.

Unfortunately, we still have no idea what spices were used, beyond the Yerba-Mate.  So I decided to split the difference and make an aperitif wine fortified using Yerba-Mate infused vodka.  In addition to the Yerba-Mate, I included some of the same spices commonly used in Absinthe. To 1/2 cup of vodka I added: 1 heaping teaspoon Yerba-Mate, 1 teaspoon crushed Anise Seed, 1 teaspoon crushed fennel, 1 crushed star anise. I let this steep for a few hours, filtered it through cheesecloth, and added it to a bottle of Dubonnet Rouge I had in the fridge.  Then I left it to sit for a couple days for the flavors to marry. It’s actually not bad. Fairly Absinthe-like. Maybe a bit heavy on the fennel.

The cocktail itself ain’t bad. To me the Spiced Dubonnet is still a little flat. I’m tempted to add a touch of citrus zest or maybe fresh red wine to liven it up.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.