This cocktail has a pretty clumsy name but it illustrates one of the vexing problems that cocktail historians and bartenders have had over the past hundred years which is that there are only so many ingredients available. For the cocktail historian it might be that such and such drink was called X but there is another drink called Y but with a quarter ounce less juice so which one does he catalog? For the bartender it might be a question of when exactly does he think up a new name for a variation.
At the turn of the century it was standard procedure to add numbers to the variations (Corpse Reviver anyone?) and then it was accepted practice to give a new name to drinks that substituted ingredients (most recently my little run in with the Paper Airplane) or even proportions and let’s not even get into name changes for garnish (Gibson).
In his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book, Ted Haigh mentions that this drink is nothing more than a Pegu with a substituted ingredient and that anyone who ordered it might think that Barnum was right and that there is a sucker born every minute. But as I mentioned earlier, there are only so many ingredients so why not just try them all and look for the delicious ones? This one should be at the top of your list.
Barnum (was right) Cocktail
2 oz gin
1 oz apricot brandy (Marie Brizard Apry)
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake with cracked ice, strain and garnish with lemon twist.
I accidentally made this for guests with lime juice instead of lemon juice. It was disgusting. It was so disgusting in fact that even one sip ruined our palates and when I remade it correctly it still didn’t taste good. Just a lesson to always confirm the ingredients before starting. I will say that having made it after that the drink returned to its place as one of our favorites. I strongly urge you to give this one a try even if Barnum was right. You’ll be rewarded with a delicious cocktail.