The Rattlesnake Cocktail

Your cocktail calendar entry for: October
19
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October 21 is National Reptile Awareness Day.  We don’t propose wrestling an alligator or visiting the lizards that may be running around your yard.  Nor are we concerned with lounge lizards or snakes in the grass.  Our task is pondering reptiles a bit and finding an appropriate Drink of the Day.  Luckily we have that in the Rattlesnake cocktail.

We could joke about snakes going soft due to a reptile dysfunction, but that is below the standards we try to maintain for our loyal readers.  Frogs are inherently funny, but they’re amphibians.  That means Kermit the Frog or licking toads for hallucinogenic effects are off the table.

Let’s Talk About Godzilla

We’ll focus on great movie monster reptiles.  There are many over the years.  There’s the Zombie Croc, the Five Headed Snake and so on.  But the king of all of them is Godzilla, probably with Rodan as runner up.  Think about it: how many reptiles have ever become a pop culture icon and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?  It’s even right in front of the iconic Graumman’s Chinese Theater.  You can’t do better than that.

Godzilla, of course, is a fictional monster, or kaiju, from a series of Japanese movies starting with the movie Godzilla in 1954.  He was an enormous ocean-dwelling reptile that was awakened, irradiated, and generally pissed off by an American hydrogen bomb test somewhere in the Pacific.  The bomb test prompted Godzilla to surface near the city of Tokyo and go on a rampage.

That was bad.  Take it from us, you don’t want to piss off something that looks like an enormous, upright dinosaur with powerful jaws and atomic breath.  Godzilla was eventually killed in the original movie by Dr. Daisuke Serizwawa’s chemical weapon, the Oxygen Destroyer, but he reappeared in many films over a long-running career.

Godzilla eventually evolved into a less destructive and more heroic character.  He was pretty much the original radioactive superhero.

Choosing a Drink of the Day was not simple.  There are any number of drinks named after Godzilla.  These are generally miserable concoctions that appear in neon colors to evoke memories of the atomic breath.  There’s the Cobra Fang, an original from Don the Beachcomber, but it’s an awfully complicated recipe.  So today we elected the Rattlesnake as Drink of the Day.

The Rattlesnake Cocktail

The Rattlesnake cocktail is essentially a modified Whiskey Sour.  It fits into the category of what were called “improved” cocktails, like the Improved Whiskey cocktail.  The “improved” moniker is a term used for cases in which a classic cocktail (like an Old Fashioned) was modified with a bit of absinthe, maraschino liqueur, or Curacao.  By the way, if you eliminate the citrus juice in a sour it is then a Flip.

Thus, the Rattlesnake cocktail is really a Whiskey Sour modified with absinthe.  It does require the classic (and for some sours considered optional) use of an egg white to provide a luxuriant texture and foam on top.  It appeared in Harry Craddock’s 1930 classic The Savoy Cocktail Book, where he notes it is “so called because it will either cure Rattlesnake bite, or kill Rattlesnakes, or make you see them.”  His recipe did not call for a sweetener, but we believe the drink is better balanced with a bit of simple syrup.

We should talk about the dry shake before we get to mixing.  This is a technique in which liquid ingredients of a cocktail are added to the cocktail shaker and shaken without ice, at room temperature.  This is a good practice when egg whites are used as it creates better emulsification and a thicker foam atop the drink.  Ice is added to the shaker after the dry shake, and the drink is then shaken as usual.  That provides a nice, refreshing drink with a luxuriant texture.

Rattlesnake whiskey cocktail

Rattlesnake cocktail

A variation on the Whiskey Sour, the Rattlesnake cocktail appears in Harry Craddock's 1930 epic The Savoy Cocktail Book.
Craddock notes it is “so called because it will either cure Rattlesnake bite, or kill Rattlesnakes, or make you see them.”  His recipe did not call for any sweetener, but we believe the drink is much better balanced with a bit of sweetener and reflect that in this recipe.
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Equipment

  • Shaker
  • Coupe glass

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Add all ingredients to your trusty cocktail shaker. Do not add ice.
  • Shake vigorously. You want to emulsify the ingredients and create a bit of foam so don't hold back.
  • Add ice to the shaker and shake again until frosty cold.
  • Strain into pre-chilled coupe.
  • Drink.
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