The Adonis cocktail is Drink of the Day for November 22. The reason is simple: it’s Rodney Dangerfield’s birthday. We have to honor a legendary comedian who could say “when I was born I was so ugly the doctor slapped my mother” and was famous for the byline “but I don’t get no respect.” What could be better than a cocktail named the Adonis for a man who was no Adonis? And it’s made with ingredients that all too often don’t get no respect.
The First Tries at Comedy
Rodney Dangerfield was born as Jacob Rodney Cohen in 1921, out on New York’s Long Island. His father abandoned the family, his mother was cold and cruel. As he put it, “I could tell my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.”
He started to write for stand-up comedians at the age of 15, and legally changed his name to Jack Roy when he was 19. It was a struggle to make a living as an unknown comedian. He tried performing as a singing waiter but got fired. The next move was to quit show business and take a job selling aluminum siding. He later noted that at the time he was so little known that “at the time I quit I was the only one who knew I quit.”
By the early 1960s he got bored enough selling aluminum siding that he started to return to the stage, but typically at little hotels in the Catskill mountains. As he put it, “I played one club – it was so far out my act was reviewed in Field and Stream.” Realizing that he lacked an image that audiences could relate to he began developing a character for whom nothing goes right. That led to the stage name Rodney Dangerfield.
Success as Rodney Dangerfield
Good luck soon arrived. One day in 1968 The Ed Sullivan Show needed a last-minute replacement for another act. Dangerfield was booked and surprised the world as the hit of the show. From that point onward it was game on. You name it: his own Vegas show, more than 70 appearances on The Tonight Show, his own comedy club in New York, a Grammy Award and keynote speaker at Harvard University’s Class Day.
Things got even better in the 1980s when he started acting in hit comedy films like Caddyshack and Easy Money. The Smithsonian Institute also recognized him, putting one of his trademark white shirts and red ties on display. When handing them to the museum curator he said, “I have a feeling you’re going to use this to clean Lindbergh’s plane.”
Naturally, he has great lines about drinking:
“My doctor told me to watch my drinking. Now I drink in front of the mirror.”
“I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it.”
It all came to an end in 2003. Dangerfield arrived at UCLA hospital for heart valve replacement surgery. Of course, when asked how long he would be in the hospital he quipped “If all goes well, about a week. If not, about an hour and a half.” Unfortunately, after the heart surgery he had a stroke, slipped into a coma and passed away. His tombstone just has his name and the line “there goes the neighborhood.”
The Adonis Cocktail
The Adonis cocktail itself dates to the mid-1880s, when it was created at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in honor of the Broadway musical Adonis. Phantom of the Opera and Jersey Boys weren’t out yet and Adonis was the first show to do so. It’s actually a low ABV drink, as its key ingredients are sweet vermouth and fino sherry.
With a name like Adonis and ingredients that often get no respect it’s apt for Rodney Dangerfield’s birthday. But like Mr. Dangerfield, the ingredients both deserve a lot more respect than they often receive.
Sherry is a fortified wine that runs the gamut from bone dry to dessert sweet. Fino sherry is the driest of the bunch, made in southern Spain from palomino grapes. It’s bone dry and aged under a layer of yeasts which give it its veil of flor. Fino is a great aperitif wine, but is often looked at with a gimlet eye due to unfamiliarity or having broken into Grandma’s bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream as a teenager and suffering the consequences. It’s actually good stuff.
Vermouth, of course, earns scorn simply because unless it’s consumed as a beverage the small quantities used in cocktails make a bottle last a long time. And that long time is no favor to it if it’s not kept in the refrigerator once opened. Do that and consume within about six weeks and it will stay vibrant, not the awful, stale bottle gathering dust you may have experienced. That’s why our Editorial Board recommends buying vermouth in 375ml bottles for your home bar. We use vermouth in a lot of cocktails, so you need to have it and treat it right.
- 1½ oz Fino sherry
- 1½ oz Sweet Vermouth
- 2 dash Orange bitters
- Garnish: orange twist
- Add sherry, vermouth and bitters to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish if you choose.