The Hakam-Hiccup cocktail is Drink of the day for June 13. It’s the Centenary, you see, of the day that Charles Osborne began the world’s longest bout of hiccups. Sure, June 13 is also Sewing Machine Day and the day Alexander the Great passed away after a marathon eating and drinking session, but here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’re going with the hiccups. After all, hiccups are frequently associated with drinking humor.
On June 13, 1922, Charles Osborne was looking to weigh a large hog ready for butchering. Picking up the 300 lb. pig he fell down and his ordeal suddenly began. For 68 years from that moment it was hiccup madness. And those hiccups weren’t from drinking.
He began at a rate of 40 hiccups per minute, but that eventually slowed to what must have seemed like a leisurely 20 per minute. In 1987 Abigail Van Buren wrote about Charles’ condition in her newspaper column. He received thousands of sympathy letters and claimed cures, but of course nothing worked.
So what are you going to do if you experience incessant hiccups? Well, if you’re George Osborne you lead a normal life. He’d rise in the morning and go for his usual walk. He sold farm machinery and auctioned livestock to earn a living. He got married twice and had eight children. Charles was already married to the first when he got the hiccups, but apparently the second wife didn’t mind them.
He did at least gain a certain fame. He appeared on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not radio program, was interviewed on The Tonight Show by Johnny Carson and, of course, made it in the Guinness Book of World Records. They estimated he hiccupped 430 million times.
Osborne believed the hiccups were caused by his fall. His doctor told him he had “busted a blood vessel the size of a pin” in his head, which in turn caused his hiccup response. Eventually, though, the cause was found to be a tumor on his brain stem that pushed on nerves that caused the hiccups.
Surgery in 1990 fixed that and the hiccups ceased, but he died shortly thereafter in 1991.
The Hakam-Hiccup Cocktail
While we could find no record of Charles Osborne drinking the Hakam-Hiccup cocktail we believe it would have been his best hope for a cure. The cocktail itself was the popular house drink of the Hakam-Hiccup bar in Eastbourne, England and the recipe spread widely.
The first publication of the recipe was in Harry of Ciro’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, which was published 1923. This was followed by appearances in references we often cite: Harry MacElhone’s Barflies and Cocktails in 1927 and Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930. If only the recipe were invented in time for Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartenders Manual in 1882 we could have covered all the historical Harries. (We’re unsure if being recognized as a luminary bartender at the time required being named Harry, but it’s starting to appear that way.)
The Hakam-Hiccup recipe is really a variation of the Hanky Panky cocktail that was invented a few years earlier. In true Mr. Potato Head fashion it substitutes the orange notes of Curacao for the bitterness and mint of Fernet Branca. Proportions of ingredients varied a bit. Harry of Ciro’s and Harrry MacElhone leaned very heavily on Sweet Vermouth. Harry Craddock used equal portions of Gin and Sweet Vermouth. Here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we believe Craddock’s version to be better balanced and show that in the recipe.
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 1¼ oz Gin
- 1¼ oz Sweet Vermouth
- ½ oz Curacao
- dash Orange bitters
- No garnish
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.