Stingers, and Keep Them Coming

“Stingers, and keep them coming.” –Cary Grant, Kiss Them for Me

“Another vodka Stinger! I’ll drink to that…” –Elaine Stritch, Company

The first said seductively the second screamed at the top of her musical lungs.

One with brandy, the other vodka, but both pack the necessary punch to get the job done. Cary wants to get the girl, in this case Jayne Mansfield and Elaine just wants to get through lunch tolerating the ladies of her social set.

I have to admit I like the allure of this cocktail quite a bit. But of all the classic “indispensable” cocktails this is the one that makes me raise my eyebrows just a bit. Because the truth is I find crème de menthe pretty much undrinkable.

However, Esquire magazine’s 1949 Handbook for Hosts identifies the Stinger Cocktail as one of the favorite drinks of the rough and ready set of WW2 fighter pilots.

Hmmm… really?

Hepburn and GrantFrankly I associate the drink more with the crème of the crop, so to speak. Something smartly sipped by the real-life Cary Grant’s and Katherine Hepburn’s of the high falutin’ patrician oligarchy of times gone by.

Despite this fact, the Stinger Cocktail is actually an example of that rare cocktail lacking any sort of pedigree at all. Most of the classic cocktails come attached to some lore or another about its origins, often dubious, but glamorous nonetheless.

But not in this case. Nope, not the Stinger, its provenance is murky.

It seems likely that it was a popular prohibition cocktail as its overt peppermint-i-ness would have been helpful in disguising the alcohol on one’s breath. But it did not earn a spot in many of the classic bartending guides of that era, so we’ll never know for sure. Though I suppose its omission could be the notable fact that it’s about the simplest of libations to mix. Deft hands and balanced ratios don’t really play a part in its preparation.

My guess is that it would have indeed been a cocktail from this time because there is a pre-prohibition mention of it in Tom Bullock’s 1917 book, Ideal Bartender.

Stinger Cocktail

Whatever its origins, it clearly started as a digestif, sipped by the fire with a cigar at the very best of gentlemen’s clubs. But that changed when Reginald Vanderbilt began ordering them before he sat down to eat at The Colony, a New York gathering place of socialites and notables. The idea of such a thing would have been considered vulgar if it hadn’t started with a Vanderbilt! Anyway, that seems to be the moment it moved from nightcap to cocktail.

stinger cocktailAnd you know, despite my feeling about crème de menthe, I enjoy a Stinger every now and again. Because honestly, in conjunction with brandy this is indeed an elegant combination of flavors. I am bringing it back as a digestif. My version is a petit (not too sweet) 2‑ounce tippler gently stirred over ice and strained into an elegantly stemmed glass. Served like this as a nightcap, please oh please choose white crème de menthe. The green stuff will give you horrendous Technicolor nightmares.

Stinger Cocktail  serves 1 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1 1⁄2 oz brandy
  • 1⁄2 oz white creme de menthe

Stir the ingredients gently in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a small stemmed glass.

Stinger Cocktail


Greg Henry

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