The Monkey Gland Cocktail

For Serge Voronoff's birthday

Your cocktail calendar entry for: July
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Today it’s the Monkey Gland cocktail for Serge Voronoff‘s birthday on July 10.  Born in 1866, Serge was a French surgeon of Russian roots, and he got into some interesting matters.

Late in the 19th century some people got into the concept of xenotransplantation.  Around 1899 Serge started working with experimental physiologist Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard who happened to be interested in the rejuvenating effects of animal glands.  Brown himself tried injecting extracts from ground-up dog and guinea pig testicles under his own skin.  Unfortunately, this therapy did not produce the desired effect of retarding aging through hormonal effects.

Shortly after this Voronoff moved to Egypt, where he worked and did research in a hospital for 14 years.  Apparently they had eunuchs around there in those days, and he observed their obesity, lack of body hair, flaccid muscles and so on.  Determining that this was due to them being bereft of their testicles the obvious conclusion was that transplantation of testicle material would restore vim and vigor to declining men.

So finally back in France around 1910 Serge took to trying to improve the lives of various beasts of burden such as horses and sheep by transplanting testicular tissue from the young into old.  This, of course, led to his aha moment of deciding that monkeys would make perfect donors for humans.

Well, fast forward to 1920 and you know where this is going.  Yup, in 1920 he sewed a piece of monkey testicle right into a patient’s scrotum.  He claimed this would cure senility, restore youthful vigor, cure schizophrenia and so on.  He called it “rejuvenation” and as you might expect enhanced sexual ability was implied.  That was the hook that made the procedure popular with men despite its enormous expense.  For obvious reasons this procedure was much less popular on the simian side of the deal.

The Monkey Gland Cocktail

There’s more to this story, but let’s get on to the whole reason we’re here:  the Drink of the Day.  And what do we drink to note this birthday and the strange tale attached to it?  It’s plainly obvious:  the Monkey Gland cocktail.

Yes, there really is a Monkey Gland cocktail and it was developed around 1923 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.  Right at the time Serge was going balls to the wall, so to speak, doing these procedures.

How do we make it?  Simple, really.  Nothing but ordinary household supplies.  Various formulas exist out there, so we’re going to go with Dale DeGroff’s recipe.

Monkey Gland cocktail

Monkey Gland

Yes, there really is a Monkey Gland cocktail and it was developed in the 1920s by Harry MacElhone, the proprietor of Harry's New York Bar in Paris, France. The name, of course, comes from the work of Serge Voronoff. He published the recipe in his book Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails. Today a it has morphed into a variety of recipes. The one comes from the well known modern bartender Dale DeGroff.
How do we make it?  Simple, really.  Gin, juice, grenadine and a splash of absinthe, it's a straightforward shake and pour.
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  • 2 oz Gin
  • oz Orange Juice
  • 1 tsp Grenadine (and please make your own, it’s nothing but pomegranate juice syrup)
  • Splash of Absinthe


  • Add all the ingredients to your trusty shaker.
  • Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
  • Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.
  • Drink.
  • Rinse and repeat.
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