To be honest, the Monkey Gland cocktail sounds gross. Glands are not particularly appetizing. But who am I to rename a cocktail, particularly when it’s been around since the 1920s? It is what it is, but trust me, it’s delicious.
I was first introduced to this drink by the PDT app. My husband and I were watching Netflix on a random Sunday and he started pulling out drinks for me to make. We quickly became obsessed. The Monkey Gland manages to be refreshing while powerful and complex. There are so few components, yet the final product is far greater than the sum of its parts. PDT claims the recipe to come from Harry McElhone, ABC of Mixing Cocktails, all the way back in 1922. Apparently, Harry was mixing this drink while he was tending bar at Ciro’s Club in London. Good old Harry. I’ve always liked that guy.
It’s an easy enough cocktail to make…
• 2 oz dry gin
• 1 oz orange juice
• .5 oz grenadine
• Absinthe for rinse
Shake with ice, then strain into an absinthe-rinsed coupe. No need for garnish, although I wouldn’t be against a really thin strip/curl of orange peel if it was on my glass.
This isn’t one of those cocktails with 20 ingredients. There’s no bitters, no crazy additional liqueurs, just gin, orange juice, grenadine and absinthe. But with so few ingredients, like most things, your ingredients better be good.
The single most important ingredient to get right is the orange juice. It must be fresh squeezed. I’ll repeat, it must be fresh squeezed. Not only is store bought orange juice much sweeter than fresh squeezed, the cocktail loses all of its refreshing zip once you add a pasteurized juice to the mix. Don’t do it, don’t even think about it. Trust me, because in my laziness I did just that, and the results are not what you want.
The gin can be whatever your heart fancies, so long as it’s dry. I’d recommend against any of the sweeter old tom styles, but I’ve made this with pretty much every London Dry gin in my cupboard to decent success. The original recipe actually specifies Beefeater. My favorite gins for this drink though, tend to be the softer styles, with G’vine Floraison my favorite, its delicate floral notes playing nicely with the absinthe and orange. In the future, I do want to play with genever and even a barrel-aged gin. I’ll update this post whenever I get around to it.
For the grenadine, I stand heartily by the Jack Rudy brand (I use his tonic syrup at home as well) and I’m in love right now with St. George Absinthe. Jack Rudy grenadine was specified in the original recipe, as well as Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe, but I have a feeling those are easily subbed without losing any quality in the final drink.
As to the sordid history behind the unappetizing name of the Monkey Gland, it was supposedly inspired by the 1920s medical experiments of surgeon Serge Voronoff. In this pre-Viagra world, Voronoff was experimenting with various implants for increased male, ahem, virility. It’s a pretty gross story, but if you are intrigued you can read all about it here. I can only assume what Harry was cheekily implying when he chose the name.
So get to it, make yourself a Monkey Gland. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. And when you do, give me a shout out in the comments section and let me know how it turned out!