With its disco-dancing supervillain sounding name and crème de menthe main ingredient, you might think The Stinger belongs to that dark 70s and 80s drink era we’d rather forget.
However, The Stinger was probably invented in the heyday of every bartender’s favorite cocktail era: the late 19th century, roughly 1890. The Stinger is a duo cocktail. It has only two ingredients: equal parts brandy and crème de menthe. Traditionally, it was served chilled in a coupe glass and as digestif or after-dinner drink.
Despite the odd spirit and liqueur pairing, it was one of the most popular pre-Prohibition drinks, according to Jerry Sullivan in his 1930 volume The Drinks of Yesteryear: A Mixology. If you’re wonder who invented it, don’t even ask. There’s no trace of any lore or legend to even pontificate about. Most likely, it was simply a riff on a similar fashionable cocktail of the day, such as The Judge. Making its first appearance in print in William Schmidt’s 1891 cocktail book The Flowing Bowl, The Judge is made with two parts brandy, one part crème de menthe and simple syrup.
Stingers in Style
One millionaire influencer, during the roaring 20s, does deserve the credit for immortalizing it. Reginald Vanderbilt, (Gloria Vanderbilt’s dad), described the Stinger in 1923 as “a short drink with a long reach, a subtle blend of ardent nectars, a boon to friendship, a dispeller of care.” He also was known to break the mold and serve it to his jetsetter guests from his home bar before dinner.
Perhaps that’s why it appears in so many of Hollywood’s Golden Era films as a cocktail, rather than a post-dinner tipple. For example, Bing Crosby explains to Grace Kelly in the 1956 film High Society why it’s called The Stinger. Of course, because it removes the sting? In the 1957 comedy Kiss Them for Me, Cary Grant orders the bartender to keep the Stingers coming in order to deal with Jayne Mansfield’s chatty character. More recently, the minty fresh drink was featured in a Mad Men episode – but it was made with rum instead of brandy.
Speaking of variations, here are just a few to try:
- The Irish Stinger – Equal parts Irish cream liqueur and crème de menthe.
- The Amaretto Stinger – A three to one ratio of amaretto to crème de menthe.
- The Mexican Stinger – Swap out the brandy for tequila.
- The Vodka Stinger or White Spider – Swap the brandy for vodka.
Modern Era Stingers
Today, if you see a Stinger on a craft cocktail bar menu, most likely it’s made with a fine cognac, instead of brandy, and an artisanal mint liqueur, like Giffard Menthe-Pastille. And sometimes, it’s even served frosty cold over one diamond-cut rock in a coupe with a twist of lemon essence, as James Beard-winning barkeep William Elliott of Brooklyn’s Maison Premier does.
Whether you prefer to keep it simple, like the original recipe below, or experiment, The Stinger certainly leaves a lasting impression…just as its name belies. And for the love of all that’s holy and right in the world of cocktails, whatever you do, avoid making it with the green-colored mint stuff (stick with clear)!
- 1 1/2 oz. Brandy
- 1/2 oz. Crème de Menthe
Preparation: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice until cold. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with mint.