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The Scofflaw

From Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails

1.5 oz Rye
1 oz Dry Vermouth
0.75 oz Lemon Juice
0.75 oz Grenadine

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass.
Shake with large ice and strain into a coupe.
Garnish with lemon twist.

* * *

If ever there was a good time to get a drink, it was during Prohibition.  Five years into the Volstead Act, there were anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 speakeasies in New York City alone.  Those who could, however, headed to the land of free flowing quality booze — Europe.  Among the places to be and be seen in Europe was Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.

Of course, with all the rampant disregard for the 18th Amendment flying about, a new term was needed to refer to those who were flagrantly in violation of the law.  What to do?  If you’re an American multimillionaire, you throw a contest — which is exactly what Delcevare King, prominent member of the Anti-Saloon League, did.  The prize was $200 for the best term describing “the idea of lawless drinker, menace, scoffer, bad citizen, or whatnot, with the biting power of ‘scab’ or ‘slacker.”  On January 16, 1924, the Boston Herald announced the winners — Pastor Henry Irving Dale and Kate L. Butler, who had both submitted the term independently of one another.  They split the prize.

According to Ted Haigh, it wasn’t even two weeks later that the Scofflaw cocktail you see above was invented at Harry’s Bar.  No doubt the contest was something of a media success, and what better way to declare yourself a scofflaw than to sidle up to Harry’s bar and be seen drinking one.  It didn’t hurt that it tasted great.

Trying one sip of the Scofflaw, Lesley declared it her new favorite.  The lovely light pumpkin color coupled with the delicate balance of burly Rye, tart lemon, and tangy-sweet grenadine really captures the change of seasons.  Essentially, the drink is a whiskey sour with some vermouth.  Why dry vermouth?  Dry vermouth is also commonly referred to as French Vermouth; it’s likely that Harry’s (in Paris, remember) wanted to add something specifically French to the drink.

I had recently recommended the Fred Collins Fiz to a reader as a way to soften up Rye.  After he tries that one, I hope he whips up a Scofflaw.  Heck, now that I think about it, there’s no need to wait.

Esoterica: Haigh tells us that some early recipes for the Scofflaw call for Canadian whiskey.  The reason for this is that America wasn’t really producing or exporting liquor during Prohibition, so turning to smuggled Canadian whiskey was the common practice (building up companies like Seagram in the process).  Unfortunately, much of the Canadian whiskey was as bad as the bathtub gin also being produced.  With the easy availability of great Rye today, it’s the way to go.  The drink really shines when made this way.

    Comments ( 15 )

  • […] both of which peg it to be a Prohibition creation.  It’s very similar in ingredients to the Scofflaw (minus the Scofflaw’s Vermouth), and indeed the few modern recipes I’ve found favor […]

  • wolfgang336

    Of course, the vast majority of Canadian whisky IS (and was) rye whisky. No comment on quality in the ’20s though, haha. I’ll give this one a whirl with Crown Royal to ensure authenticity!

    • Wolfgang – thanks for reading and for the comment. Crown Royal was my dad’s whisky, so it’s got a special place in my book. You may be interested in this article which describes the difference between American Rye Whiskey and the Canadian use of the name. Only rule, of course, is: if it tastes good, drink it!

  • Ryan

    I made this with a dash of absinthe and it definitely changed it for the better. Thinking about trying it with half the grenadine.

    • Excellent, Ryan. You may have a whole new drink on your hands. Please send the recipe when you’re done — we’d love to try it.

    • Ryan

      Here’s our revision, we’ve dubbed it the “Outlaw” (CocktailDB doesn’t return another drink of that name):

      2.0oz Rye
      1.0oz Dry Vermouth
      Splash of Grenadine
      Smaller Splash of Lemon
      Dash of Absinthe (not even a dash, a few drops is all that’s needed)

      We felt that in the original recipe given here the rye was lost in the drink. Perhaps that’s just a characteristic of the rye we used (Russell’s Reserve), but the flavor profile was gone when we first mixed up the Scofflaw.

      We used Russell’s Reserve Rye, Absente Absinthe and Gallo Dry Vermouth, as we don’t have the 12BB choices on hand. We prefer Gallo over Noilly Prat and haven’t found Rittenhouse here yet. Prep is the same as the Scofflaw.

      • Thanks for sharing, Ryan. The Rittenhouse is 100 proof versus the Russell’s 90 proof, which is why it probably stands out a little bit more. Personally, I’m not a fan of Absente, which I find too NyQuil-like. The reason I went with the Kubler is its milder, more cocktail-friendly herbal profile — you can use it (somewhat) more liberally than the Absente.

        I’ll try your recipe post haste, but it sounds delicious. It’s always a pleasure to have a new one to mix up.

  • […] Do you have a favorite post on your blog you’d like to share with our readers? The Scofflaw is a beautiful variation on the Whiskey Sour, and it has a nice Prohibition story behind it. We try […]

  • […] the flavors and provide more depth and a touch of sweetness.  If you’re a fan of drinks like the Scofflaw or the Blinker, this one – with its grapefruit tang and brandy warmth – is certainly up your […]

  • With Ken Burns’ Prohibition coming up, LA Weekly recommended the Scofflaw as the perfect companion piece. Check it out:

  • […] into being in the 1920s, and the eponymous cocktail followed shortly thereafter . I’ll let 12 Bottle Bar do the talking: Of course, with all the rampant disregard for the 18th Amendment flying about, a new term was […]

  • Jessie

    Sort of late to the game on this one but we made a great variation. Replace the grenadine with lavender simple syrup and you got yourself a Yardbird (or at least that’s what we call it)!


    1.5 oz Rittenhouse Rye 

    1 oz Dry Vermouth  
    0.75 oz Lemon Juice
    1 oz Lavender Simple Syrup

    Add all ingredients to a mixing

    Shake with large ice and strain into a coupe.

    with lemon twist.You need a little extra lavender simple syrup to get the subtle lavender flavor to pull through the whiskey. One of our standard drinks now!

  • Brad Simpson

    Well, I’m kind of a late comer to this site, but I’ve been stalking around for awhile, trying this, that, and the other thing. Unfortunately, good rye seems to be hard to come by in my region. But I rely heavily on my bottle of Maker’s Mark to fill in as a replacement.

    Of the 12 or so of your drinks I’ve tried, I’m pretty impressed. And this one struck me as a good fit(I tend to like drinks styled like this). However, I am convinced that a spicy rye would fill the role in this one far better than my bourbon. Not overly impressive with the Maker’s. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. I shall re-acquiant myself with this recipe when I finally get my hands on a bottle of Rittenhouse.

    On the note of rye, do you have a thought regarding WhistlePig? I’ve heard some good reviews, but it’s certainly a top-shelf priced bottle.

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