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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.