October 16, 1793 was the day Marie Antoinette got her head lopped off during the Reign of Terror phase of the French Revolution. The guillotine, at one time dubbed the “National Razor” of France, was the tool of choice for the task. The perfect Drink of the Day exists to pay tribute to this event, so today we’ll explore the Guillotine cocktail and Marie Antionette.
Marie Antoinette entered the world as Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna. She was born into privilege as a daughter of Emperor Francis I of Austria. When she was 14 she got married to Louis-Auguste, who was the upcoming heir to the French throne. Four years later she became queen when her husband ascended to the throne and became Louis XVI.
Marie was crowned queen in 1774 and was soon known for her extravagance. Her husband Louis was thrifty, indecisive, and preferred to be alone, but Marie Antoinette was extravagant and craved the social whirlwind. Louis would go to bed around 11 PM while Marie was just getting the party started. She bought diamond jewelry that cost as much as a Paris mansion, gambled wildly and sported towering bouffant hairdos. Fun times.
The French Revolution
The royal couple was isolated in the luxury of Versailles and were oblivious to the plight of their subjects. Failed harvests had made the price of grain skyrocket, mobs rioted and taxes were crushing. Meanwhile, Marie Antoinette’s spending on creating her own private domain at Versailles made for many jealous feelings amongst the court.
When the French Revolution began in 1789 Louis XVI and Marie Antionette were not the most popular folks. In 1792 the First French Republic was formed, and Louis was relieved of his head at the beginning of 1793. On October 14 of that year Marie was put on trial by the Revolutionary Tribunal. Two days later it was her turn for the guillotine.
The guillotine itself is best known for its use in France, but it wasn’t invented there. Beheading was a common means of execution in Europe at that time. It’s messy, of course, but does facilitate sticking the head on a pike for display. The guillotine mechanism itself was invented with the intention of making the execution less painful and more efficient than using an axe or sword, which depended on operator skill and often required multiple whacks.
The Guillotine Cocktail
Moving on to the Drink of the Day, the Guillotine cocktail itself is far less messy than a beheading and far less threatening to your health. Interestingly, recipes for a drink by this name are all over the map, sometimes even calling for ingredients like Cachaca or Butterscotch Schnapps. Go figure.
We rely upon a recipe developed by Franky Marshall at the Brooklyn cocktail bar Le Budoir. This drink has several things going for it, not the least of which is the bar’s obvious reference to Marie Antoinette, Marshall’s history of being part of the opening teams at both the Clover Club and Dead Rabbit, and the fact that it’s mighty tasty.
The Guillotine’s ingredients are hardly all French. After all it’s Scotch and mezcal based. But at least Giffard makes an excellent banana liqueur.
- Snifter glass
- 1 oz Mezcal
- ¾ oz Scotch Whisky Use a blended Scotch here, but feel free to experiment.
- ¼ oz Banana Liqueur
- ¼ oz honey syrup Equal parts honey and water to make syrup.
- Garnish: lemon twist
- Add liquid ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into snifter over two ice cubes.
- Express lemon twist over drink and discard.
- Keep your head attached.