The Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode Forty

Many cocktail ingredients have ridiculous (and sometimes sordid) pasts. This week we’re taking a look at two amazing stories behind a couple great ingredients.

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In today’s Episode…

We’re diving in to the history behind two great cocktail ingredients.

A Brief History of Drambuie

Let’s take a look at the liqueur perhaps best known for its role in ” The Rusty Nail” cocktail – that is, of course, Drambuie!

  • This liqueur was supposedly created by Prince Charles Edward Stuart, nicknamed “Bonnie Prince Charlie”. It was his “Personal” liqueur, and supposedly had medicinal qualities.
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie attempted to restore the Stuarts (his family) to the throne in Great Britain, but was unsuccessful. In July 1746 he was on the run from the King’s men, traveling across western Scotland
  • John MacKinnon, chief of the MacKinnon Clan, helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the Isle of Skye. In gratitude, the Prince shared the recipe for his “personal liqueur.”
  • The Clan would keep the recipe for generations, eventually passing it down to John Ross in 1873. Ross ran the Broadford Hotel on Skye and began serving the liqueur to guests.
  • Rumor has it, guests called it “an dram buidheach”, which is Gaelic for “a drink that satisfies”. It would eventually become shortened to the name we know today: “Drambuie”.
  • The liqueur grew in popularity, a trademark was registered in 1893 and it was brought to the mainland of Scotland for distribution in 1909. From there, word spread and it found its way into the House of Lords and Buckingham palace soon after.
  • Drambuie was just making its way into the US when Prohibition struck. But over the course of Prohibition, Drambuie gained a reputation for mixing well with low quality smuggled spirits. It gained popularity in speakeasies for this reason (and this is the origin of the “Rusty Nail” cocktail.)

Want to see the whole timeline? Check out Drambuie’s History page here.

An Abridged History of Chartreuse:

We couldn’t possibly get through an episode about spirit histories without talking about Chartreuse. This spirit has had a long, windy path from its origins to where it is today, and we’ve hopefully covered most of the important parts!

  • In 1605, Francois Hannival d’Estrees gave the Chartreuse Monastery in Vauvert a manuscript containing the recipe for an “elixir” that would eventually be called “Elixir of Long Life”.  It is unknown who originally created it, but the recipe was extremely complex and it took more than a hundred years until the Chartreuse Monastery’s Apothecary, Frere Jerome Maubec was able to create a practical, repeatable formula.
  • That original “Elixer of Long Life” was sold to local villages, but didn’t gain large distribution.
  • In 1764, the monks created a milder adaptation of the original recipe and called it “Green Chartreuse”. It was a huge success and began to gain much larger distribution.
  • The Chartreuse Monks left France after the start of the French Revolution, in 1793. The original manuscript was saved and secretly passed on for years. Emperor Napoleon issued a decree in 1810, requiring all “Secret” recipes to be registered with the Ministry of the Interior. The Manuscript was sent in and refused, because the government felt it was “well known” (not a secret.) After its refusal,
  • In 1816, the Monks returned to their Monastary and the formula for Chartreuse was returned to them.
  • Yellow Chartreuse was created in 1838, as an even milder (40%) and sweeter version.
  • In 1903 the French government nationalized the distillery and kicked out the monks once again. The government sold the trademark to a group of distillers who ran the distillery until it went bankrupt in 1929. Friends of the monks bought shares of the bankrupt distillery and returned it to the monks.
  • Production would resume until 1935 when the distillery was almost completely destroyed in a landslide.
  • The distillery was relocated to Voiron, where it is still today.

It’s an incredible story – and hard to follow! It’s amazing that the Manuscript was kept safe through all of the times the Monks were forced to move – something we can all be grateful for today!  By the way, my favorite overview of the History of Chartreuse can be found here, in case you’d like to read in more detail.

Interested in that article we mentioned?  Here’s Chris’ write-up on how to estimate the age of a Vintage Bottle of Chartreuse.

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This episode was a bit different – did you like it? There are thousands of amazing stories behind the spirits we drink today. If you liked this podcast, let us know in the comments and we’ll make more!

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