No need for rose-colored glasses to fall for this pretty-in-pink, pre-Prohibition cocktail
As one of Pantone’s christened colors of 2016, pink spells panache once again. There’s no better cocktail than the Clover Club cocktail. Made with gin, lemon juice, egg white, and raspberry or grenadine syrup, this rose-hued sipper originated, surprisingly, as a gentleman’s drink.
The Power of Pink
Created as the signature drink of the Clover Club, a group of high-powered businessmen who met at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia in the late 1800s to early 1900s, pink was a power color for the jet-set gent. For example, Gatsby proudly sported a pink suit in the 1925 Great Gatsby novel. This example may explain why manly men, such as the poet Yeats, slurped them down sans shame.
“While pink is now regarded as a feminine color, it was once seen as masculine, making this cocktail aptly colored for the men’s club of its namesake,” explains Rachel Ford, Diageo National Gin Ambassador. As further proof of its virility in Jack Townsend’s 1951 The Bartender’s Book, he described the Clover Club drinker in its heyday as “the distinguished patron of the oak-paneled lounge.”
The Rosy Shade Fades
Unfortunately, just as the shade fell from favor with men, so did the frothy concoction. Deemed as a girly drink alongside its cousin cocktail, the Pink Lady, the Clover Club landed on Esquire Magazine’s 10 Worst Drinks of the decade in 1939. Enter Martinis and Manhattans as the new go-to tipples of success. Essentially, it became the pre-Carrie Bradshaw Cosmo of its era (and what’s so wrong with that anyhow?).
However, thanks to this decade’s craft cocktail craze, the sweet and sour sipper is tickling both genders’ palates once more. There’s even a born again Clover Club, the brainchild of Julie Reiner (also of Manhattan’s Pegu Club and Flatiron Lounge, plus Leyenda bar that opened in 2015), in Brooklyn. Named after the original Philly sodality, the darkly lit denizen embodies late 19th-century regalia with wood paneling, red leather tufted couches, velvet curtains, and an ornate tin ceiling. Naturally, the Clover Club libation is first billing on the bar’s menu under the cocktail category. Here, you’ll find a later rendition of the drink; dry vermouth is added to the original four ingredients.
“Dry vermouth is commonly added today, as it was in the recipe from the 1946 Stork Club Bar recipe book”
– Rachel Ford
Other variations to try, based on recommendations by legendary early 20th-century bartender Harry MacElhone of Harry’s Bar in Paris mentioned in his cocktail books, including swapping lemon juice for lime or including sweet and dry vermouth while scaling the gin back. Add Applejack for a Pink Lady; float fresh mint for a Clover Leaf.
Whether or not you’ll be donning a Gatsby-style pink suit this season is still iffy. What’s not in question is what to toast the summer with. Here’s how to shake up the potent pink power drink of old on your own:
The Clover Club Cocktail
“The bold juniper presence in Tanqueray London Dry both pairs well with and stands up to the sweet, tart, and creamy elements of this particular classic,” says Ford.
- 2 oz. Tanqueray London Dry Gin
- 1 Egg White
- 1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz. Raspberry Syrup
Preparation: Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or raspberries.