When I was writing my book Savory Cocktails I tasted a lot of classic cocktails. I wanted a few beloved standards to sit alongside the recipes that were created especially for the book. Unfortunately many of the classic cocktails just didn’t work with the savory (sour, spicy, herbal, umami, bitter, smoky, rich, strong) premise of the book. One such classic cocktail I particularly enjoyed was the Pegu Club Cocktail.
The Pegu Club is the kind of cocktail I’m typically drawn too. First of all its gin. Which means it’s a serious cocktail for folks who like more nuance than vodka usually provides. The herbal notes in gin add a sophisticated complexity. Making this drink more interesting than simply a sweet and sour, boozy kick in the ass. However the real reason I like the Pegu Club Cocktail is that it’s a cocktail with a romantic, old-world history attached.
Named after a Victorian era Gentlemen’s club in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar). The Pegu Club was a swank spot and the center of British ex-pat social life. It’s easy for me to imagine myself escaping the sweltering heat of Burma by sitting on a bar stool, feet firmly planted on a brass rail, sipping a Pegu Club Cocktail. For that reason (and that reason alone) I tried desperately to tweak the ingredients to fit more comfortably into the savory theme of my book.
Alas, none of my tinkering improved the drink and the version I present here is a simplified (eggless) rendition of the original. I do like to add a dash of orange bitters (which may or may not be original), because I think it brings out the gin better than the Angostura alone.
Pegu Club Cocktail
If you decide to try this at drink home, I’ve attached a recipe. However, if you want to try it at a bar you might need help with the pronunciation. When I was first introduced to the drink I’d only seen the words Pegu Club in print. I was left to surmise that it was probably pronounced PAY-goo. Because, when in doubt, I tend to pronounce odd sounding words with a terrible French accent. However, the bartenders at the American Bar at the Savoy in London pronounce the drink PEE-zhou. Which, to my ears, has an authentic Burmese ring to it. Today, as the drink makes a modern day comeback, I tend to hear the more Americanized pronunciation of PEG-oo. I honestly don’t know which pronunciation is correct. But it remains a swank drink. GREG