Today at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’re mixing up the Doctor’s Orders cocktail in honor of aspirin. Yes, that’s right, the aspirin you find in the medicine cabinet, the substance relied upon by drinkers for hangover relief. Aspirin was first patented on March 6, 1899. Here we explain the Doctor’s Orders as more than the take two and call me in the morning cliché.
We considered other occasions, like National Tartar Sauce Day on March 4. But aspirin wins our greater respect. Indeed, we’re releasing this on March 5 for readers’ convenience, but we’ve already covered the fifth with the Drunk Uncle and the Stone Fence in honor of the Boston Massacre, and we hope to reach the point of available guidance for each day of the year. So let’s talk about aspirin and the Doctor’s Orders recipe.
Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, first came from a base known as salicin that’s found in willow tree bark. Willow had been used since the days of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, but there is scant evidence that use was for pain relief.
Either way, in 1838 the Italian chemist Raffaele Piria found a way to extract a more potent form of willow extract that he named salicylic acid. Later, in 1897, a group in Germany working for Bayer learned to synthesize acetylsalicylic acid and aspirin as we know it was born.
The Drunkard’s Almanac views aspirin as an adjunct rather than primary painkiller. Our view is in line with what Time magazine published in 1941:
“Whiskey is one of the cheapest and best painkillers known to man.” So reported Dr. Harold George Wolff of Cornell last week to the Association of American Physicians meeting at Atlantic City. Earlier doctors, he said, prescribed whiskey freely but were finally forced to discard it for “moral and ethical considerations.”
In their experiments, Drs. Wolff, James D. Hardy and Helen Goodell tried a mixture of two ounces of 95% grain alcohol in a glass of ginger ale on themselves, found that it raises the “threshold” of pain 45% for two hours. Two ounces of 90-proof whiskey will turn the same trick. If a five-grain tablet of aspirin is added, any pain can be dulled for four hours. Dr. Wolff urged his colleagues to return to the use of whiskey for “persons suffering continuously,” especially cancer victims. Said he: “It is cheaper than morphine. … Of course alcohol is habit-forming but an alcohol habit is less difficult to deal with than a morphine habit.”
So there you have it, the effectiveness of a drink plus aspirin.
The Doctor’s Orders Cocktail
A proper celebration honoring the patent for aspirin clearly requires following doctor’s orders, though not only in the “take two and call me in the morning” stereotype. Instead, we present the Doctor’s Orders cocktail. Even if we doubt that many doctors prescribe it as a painkiller.
The drink itself was invented by legendary New Orleans bartender Chris McMillan. He’s a fourth generation bartender and a co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail. His Sazeracs and Mint Juleps are legendary, and Imbibe Magazine named him as one of the top 25 most influential bartenders over the last century.
The drink itself was invented for a cocktail contest circa 2010. It’s a simple mixture – bourbon, white crème de menthe and Benedictine – but the sweetness must be adjusted through the crème de menthe. Mr. McMillan calls for the Marie Brizard brand, as its less sweet than cheaper versions. We don’t all have that specific bottle sitting on the kitchen counter, so we advise adjusting the proportions a bit to suit your taste.
Doctor's Orders Cocktail
- Mixing glass
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 2 oz Bourbon
- ½ oz Creme de Menthe Use a white, not green, creme de menthe.
- 2 dash Benedictine
- Garnish: None
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass. As you probably don't keep Benedictine in a dasher bottle you can just use a fraction of a barspoon. The Benedictine is really there to add spice rather than sweetness.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Rinse and repeat.