Bank Robber Cocktail

John Dillinger's birthday

Your cocktail calendar entry for: June
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The Bank Robber cocktail is Drink of the Day on June 22 to celebrate John Dillinger’s birthday.  Generally considered the most notorious bank robber of all time, he became famous during the Great Depression era.  Perhaps that’s not surprising for someone quoted as saying “I rob banks for a living.  What do you do?”

The man was a living embodiment of defiance, a middle finger raised to the forces of law and order.  He informally became “Public Enemy # 1” but at the same time a folk hero in a time of economic hardship.   Dillinger may not have been much of a drinker, but the Bank Robber cocktail certainly fits the man and is a solid bourbon drink.

John Dillinger

John Dillinger was born June 22, 1903 in Indianapolis, Indiana and grew up in a working-class family.  He was the wild child, often in trouble for fighting and petty theft.

In 1923 Dillinger enlisted in the US Navy but ended up deserting a few months later.  He returned to Indiana and got married, but unable to find work he and a friend robbed a grocery store.  He was arrested the next day.  His father had a discussion with the county prosecutor, and he was encouraged to plead guilty.

That didn’t work out as hoped:  Dillinger was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.  There he befriended seasoned bank robbers who tutored him on their methods.  Mr. Dillinger was paroled on May 10, 1933 so on June 21 he robbed his first bank.  But he was located and arrested.

Dillinger and a group of inmate friends escaped from prison four days later.  The Dillinger Gang carved a wicked path across the heartland, their audacious bank heists captivating a nation desperately clinging to threads of hope amidst the Great Depression.

They committed 12 separate bank heists within a year.  Along the way he was captured and imprisoned yet again but escaped.  Like a phantom in the night, Dillinger taunted the authorities, forever staying one step ahead.

That staying ahead, however, did not last forever.  He bounced from Minnesota to Ohio, Wisconsin and finally Chicago, with stops for bank robberies in South Dakota and Iowa.  He underwent plastic surgery trying to change his looks.  J. Edgar Hoover created a special task force to find Dillinger and they finally caught up with him in Chicago.  On July 22, 1934 he was seen entering a theater.  Upon exit Dillinger was pursued, chased down an alley, and killed in a hailstorm of bullets.

The Bank Robber Cocktail

The Bank Robber cocktail clearly fits our protagonist.  It comes from a now-closed place called The Marrow, which was on Bank Street in New Yorks’s West Greenwich Village.  The Bank Robber got its name from the street on which it was invented plus the fact that the concept is robbed from the Boulevardier.

The Bank Robber cocktail is familiar.  It’s really just a slight variation on the Boulevardier.  Like Dillinger, the Boulevardier became popular during the Prohibition era, at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.  It fits right into the category of Negroni variations.

The difference between the Boulevardier and the Bank Robber comes down to proportions and the vermouth component of the drink.  While the Boulevardier just specifies sweet vermouth, the Bank Robber specifically calls out for Punt e Mes.  An Italian vermouth, Punt e Mes is slightly bittered – it is distinctly less sweet – and is readily available.  Your correspondent often uses it as an everyday sweet vermouth substitute in recipes where a bit less sweetness is desired.  We’ve also used it here in the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique cocktail.

bank robber cocktail

Bank Robber Cocktail

The Bank Robber cocktail is really a slightly tweaked classic - the Boulevardier. The key differences are simply that it specifically calls for Punt e Mes instead of a typically sweeter sweet vermouth. Proportions are also slightly changed. While the Boulevardier typically uses 2:1:1 proportions of bourbon, sweet vermouth and Campari the Bank Robber leans more heavily on bourbon with 4:1:1 ratios.
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  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • ½ oz Punt e Mes
  • ½ oz Campari
  • Garnish: Orange twist


  • Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
  • Add ice and stir to chill.
  • Strain into pre-chilled Nick and Nora glass.
  • Express twist over drink and add to glass.
  • Drink.


Calories: 180kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 0.01gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 1mgIron: 0.02mg
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