The Casino Cocktail

Your cocktail calendar entry for: November
17
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it’s Martin Scorsese’s birthday, so that means we’re going to get into the Casino cocktail as Drink of the Day.  Scorsese’s worth honoring because his films provide hours of entertainment to accompany drinks.  The Casino is a classic cocktail and clearly fits his film by that name.  So it’s a match.  It’s mid November and a bit early to discuss holiday films for the whole family, but you can still serve a Casino to the kids if you like.  That’s up to you; here we just cover the origin of the drink and the recipe.

Martin Scorsese and Casino

Scorsese himself was born on November 17, 1942 in New York’s Queens borough.  He moved to Little Italy in Manhattan when he was very young, but we already covered the Little Italy cocktail for Carlo Gambino’s birthday.  After being kicked out of seminary school he ended up earning a degree in English at New York University.  He then entered NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1968.

Scorsese made a couple of short films while in school, but in the 1970s Scorsese befriended the wunderkinds of the day: Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.  Fatefully, De Palma introduced him to Robert De Niro.  Their collaborations started in 1973 with the filming of Mean Streets.  Championed by critics, that film put Scorsese and De Niro on the map.  Film critic Robert Ebert even predicted Scorsese would become the American version of Federico Fellini.

There are many Scorsese-De Niro collaborations that have become legendary.  Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Irishman, and, of course, our cocktail motivation for today: Casino.  You might also notice that when De Niro stars in a Scorsese film there’s a lot of tension and bad things happen to a variety of characters.  Travis Bickle put it best in Taxi Driver, when he uttered one of the most famous lines in film history: “You talkin’ to me?”

Casino wasn’t exactly a happy family story.  Rather, it’s an epic crime film about Sam “Ace” Rothstein (De Niro), a Jewish American gambling expert who runs a Las Vegas casino for the Chicago mob.  Much action ensues, but once the FBI busts the crime ring Sam is last seen as a sports handicapper, where he ends the film with the line “right back where I started.”

The Casino Cocktail

Our Editorial Board is aware of cocktails like The Cab and the Mexican Taxi Driver, but neither fits Travis Bickle.  That pretty much takes Taxi Driver off the table as inspiration for a drink.  Sure, the Connaught Bar in London makes a Good Fellas cocktail, but it’s overly fussy in ingredients and they spell it with two words.  Hence we rely on the Casino cocktail as a fitting, classic choice for Drink of the Day.

Hugo R. Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks is usually reported as the first publication of the drink, like it was for the Aviation cocktail we mixed up on Orville Wright’s birthday.  That assertion is incorrect for the Casino.  The Casino was published earlier, in J.A. Didier’s 1909 The Reminder: An Up-to-Date Bartender’s Vest Pocket Guide.  It’s unclear who invented the drink, but we encourage you to go ahead and mix one up.

The Casino is actually just like an Aviation cocktail, without the Crème de Violette liqueur.  One might think of it as a cousin of the Turf Club, which uses dry vermouth instead of lemon juice and adds a dash of absinthe.  It’s also very similar to the Tuxedo cocktail.

The Casino itself is an International Bartenders Association (IBA) official cocktail, meaning its ingredients are defined.  Recipes have varied the proportions of juice and Maraschino relative to gin.  The recipe shown here is a well balanced interpretation.

So go ahead, roll the dice and mix one up.

Casino cocktail

Casino cocktail

The Casino is actually is a pre-Prohibition classic, first published around 1909. Various versions exist, including some served over the rocks, but we generally prefer gin-based drinks like this served up. But either way, you'll never go wrong.
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Equipment

  • Mixing glass
  • Nick and Nora or coupe glass

Ingredients
  

  • 2 oz Gin
  • ¼ oz Fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes Orange bitters
  • Garnish: cherry

Instructions
 

  • Add gin, lemon juice, Maraschino and orange bitters to your trusty mixing glass. If you prefer feel free to shake this one. After all, it has lemon juice.
  • Add ice and stir until frosty cold.
  • Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
  • Garnish with cocktail cherry.
  • Drink.
  • Queue up Casino, Taxi Driver or other Scorsese film.
  • Rinse and repeat drink recipe.
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