For May 26th we’re going to be mixing the Dunlop Cocktail. It’s an appropriate way to honor the anniversary of the day in 1923 that the first 24 Hours of Le Mans race started. At Le Mans, speed and endurance are the religion and the Circuit de la Sarthe is its holiest shrine. It’s the world’s oldest active endurance racing event and has seen glories and tragedies like no other.
Of course, something as legendary as Le Mans has spawned a knockoff: the 24 Hours of Lemons. It’s an endurance racing series for cars that cost $500 or less to procure. We thought briefly about mixing the Lemon Drop but discarded that idea.
Instead we’re mixing the Dunlop cocktail to recognize the Dunlop Bridge, an iconic feature of the Circuit de la Sarthethe, the Le Mans course.
The Race at Le Mans
The 24 Hours of Le Mans was launched 100 years ago when Grand Prix racing was the dominant form throughout Europe. But it was designed to present a different test. Instead of competing on speed over a fixed distance by a single driver it is a team event in which distance traveled in 24 hours is the measure. A car needs to be durable and reliable enough to go like a bat out of Hell for an entire 24 hours. Winning requires skill, strategy and unwavering concentration.
The track, the Circuit de la Sarthe, is a treacherous 13.6 kilometer mix of permanent track sections and public roads. Some 85% of it is run at full throttle. There are the Porsche curves and the Ford chicanes, but no section is better known than the infamous Mulsanne Straight. Speeds became so high that two chicanes were introduced to slow things down a bit. Nature, too, plays its part, with ever-changing weather adding to the chaos.
Manufacturers field teams and compete directly with one another. Some team tends to dominate for a few years, and others try to unseat them. Ferrari was dominant until Ford set out to beat them and that battle is legendary. Then came Porsche vs. Ferrari, which was followed by Jaguar setting its sights on ending Zuffenhausen’s Le Mans domination. Mercedes, Audi, Peugeot….they’ve all been involved.
Le Mans is not merely a race; it is a crucible of automotive innovation. In their rivalries manufacturers push the boundaries of engineering and performance, harnessing the track’s punishing demands to refine groundbreaking technologies.
Beyond the roar of engines, Le Mans pulses through the veins of popular culture. It inspires movies from the eponymous 1971 film starring Steve McQueen to the 2019 film Ford v Ferrari. Documentaries are too numerous to mention.
The Dunlop Cocktail
Determining an appropriate drink to celebrate the 24 Hours of Le Mans was not so simple. The fact that the long track begets full throttle for most of its length seemed inspirational. But the Full Throttle cocktail is really nothing more than vodka and Mountain Dew mixed with an energy drink. We have nothing against Mountain Dew, making good use of it in the Mountain Suze. Nonetheless, the Full Throttle drink doesn’t meet our editorial standards.
Fortunately, a feature at the Circuit de la Sarthe provides guidance. The Dunlop Bridge is a landmark advertising footbridge over the track. There have been several Dunlop bridges at race tracks around the world, but this was the first. Its appearance in a photo practically identifies the track. It’s also just before the aptly named Dunlop Corner, the first turn encountered by racers after the start.
And there is a Dunlop cocktail: Harry Craddock first published it in The Savoy Cocktail Book. He does not provide attribution, so we don’t know whether it was invented at the Savoy or elsewhere, but several versions exist. It’s a simple drink at heart – just two ingredients – but open to interpretation on what rum and sherry to use. You have a choice, but you want a dry sherry, not one of the sweetened “cream sherry” bottles you may have taken a youthful nip from while at Grandma’s house. For rum we recommend something with a few years of age – white rum is out of contention here – but it’s up to you if you want the funk of something like Jamaican rum or the grassy notes of a Rhum Agricole.
- 2 oz Rum Choose something aged or with character; don't use a white rum.
- 1 oz Sherry
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled glass.
- Start your engines, and drink.