In a way, that most celebrated fin de siècle, the “Gay Nineties”, was the last hurrah before things got serious. Think of what happened just ten years later, at the dawn of the 20th Century. Electricity, the automobile, the airplane, Freud and Modern Psychology, Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, Quantum Physics, Modern Art, atonal music, the development of the radio and of motion pictures, not to mention the strife and entanglements that would precipitate a revolution in Russia and a Great World War. Looking back, we can cut them some slack, those happy, insouciant souls from an age that would soon disappear. So let’s forget the present and the future for a moment and inhabit one of Renoir’s paintings—this mythic, brightly-colored, gay and carefree world where life is just grand.
The beautiful and beguiling “Widow’s Kiss” is of this charmed era. Legend holds that it was invented by George Kappeler, the head bartender at the Holland House Hotel in Manhattan. And it first appeared in his 1895 book, Modern American Drinks. It’s a deliciously smooth cocktail, with a gorgeous, shimmering color. The original recipe called for ¾ part Bénédictine, but when I made it for this month’s RETRO COCKTAIL I only had a half part of Bénédictine left in the bottle, so I used a quarter part of B&B to make up the difference, and it tasted just right.
1½ parts Laird’s Old Apple Brandy
¾ part Yellow Chartreuse
½ part Bénédictine
¼ part B&B
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Stir over ice, then pour into a chilled coupe glass.
Garnish with a Tillen Farms Bada Bing Cherry, or
a fresh mint leaf.