Wild Ruffian Cocktail

In honor of the Straw Hat Riot

Your cocktail calendar entry for: September
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September 13, 1922 was the start of the Straw Hat Riot in New York City and in memory of that sartorial rumpus we’ll be mixing the Wild Ruffian cocktail.  In those days men always wore a hat outside.  It was, pretty much, de rigueur.  And there were rules, or shall we say strong conventions about what hats were acceptable and when.  It was discontent on this front that led to the Straw Hat Riot, which lasted for eight days.

The Straw Hat Riot

Straw hats became summertime wear in the 19th century, particularly when related to sporting events.  This led to development of the boater, a straw hat with a stiff, flat crown and brim.  It wasn’t considered good form (except for women) to wear a straw hat in cities even during the hottest part of summer.  By the early 20th century, though, straw boaters were considered acceptable during hot summer days.

But there was an unwritten rule:  straw boaters were not acceptable past September 15.   Any man seen wearing a straw hat from that date onward drew ridicule, and it became customary for youth to knock those hats off and stomp on them.  Newspapers warned their readers with a reminder of the upcoming date each year.  At that point they were expected to switch to wool or silk hats.

In 1922 some young ruffians got a jump on things and decided to begin on the 13th.  They started on some factory workers in the area around what’s now Chinatown in Manhattan.  They next targeted some dock workers and a major brawl that stopped traffic on the Manhattan Bridge broke out.  Pro tip:  it’s never a good idea to mess with dockworkers.  Police eventually broke it up and arrests were made.

Things got out of hand the next evening when gangs prowled the streets and beat those who tried to hold on to their hats.  Fisticuffs…arrests…hospitalizations…it all happened.  The general melee lasted eight days, so we deem the normal cutoff date of September 15 as the day for a drink in recognition.

The practice of hat bashing still occurred here and there but declined as the straw boater became less fashionable.  By the 1950s it was nearly extinct as a garment.

The Wild Ruffian Cocktail

For obvious reasons the Wild Ruffian is an apt drink to mark the occasion of youth-driven riots.  By odd coincidence this drink emerged from the same place as our recent Interpol cocktail – the now-defunct Blackbird restaurant in Chicago.  This one, however, was developed by Lynn House rather than Kyle Davidson.

Overall, the drink is a great combination of fruit and Cognac, a natural combination that is often ignored.  The mint adds a significant degree of freshness to this drink that almost reminds us of a tall Mint Julep in concept.

wild ruffian cocktail

Wild Ruffian

From the Blackbird Restaurant in Chicago, the Wild Ruffian makes use of Cognac's affinity for fruit and the freshness of mint. Something of a cross between a Smash and a Julep, it's a perfect warm weather refresher.
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  • Collins Glass
  • Muddler


  • 3 oz Cognac
  • 2 tsp Peach preserves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 12 Mint leaves
  • Garnish: Mint sprigs


  • Add peach preserves, sugar and 1 teaspoon water to a small microwave-safe bowl and heat for 20-30 seconds.  Stir to dissolve sugar.
  • Muddle the mint leaves in a Collins glass, dragging them up the sides coating the inside with the mint oils.  Remove about ¾ of the mint and discard.
  • Fill glass with crushed ice.
  • Add Cognac and peach syrup to your trusty cocktail shaker.
  • Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
  • Strain into glass and garnish with mint sprig.
  • Drink.
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