cocktail

Last week US News & World Report declared Princeton the best college in the world (alas not for sartorial reasons). Yesterday Slate followed this up with an entertaining article on cocktails of the Ivy League.

Writes Troy Patterson:

Princeton is party to a tradition dating to the Gay ’90s. In that Golden Age of the cocktail, the bar at Holland House on Fifth Avenue—a hotel in “the swellest quarter in New York” (“350 Rooms from $2 upwards”)—began putting out drinks named for Harvard and Yale and Princeton, doubtless currying favor with the alumni among its patrons and announcing itself as a “classy” joint to other suckers for HYP hype.

The cocktails of Ivy League, then, predate the social construct of “the Ivy League” by four decades and the history of the NCAA entity by six. Over the years, charming upstarts, curious arrivistes, and dogged usurpers joined the original collegiate cocktails, which themselves evolved and degenerated to varying degrees.

The article includes recipes for all the Ancient Eight, including this one:

Princeton Cocktail #1

2 ounces Old Tom gin
2 dashes orange bitters
¾ ounce ruby or tawny port
Orange or lemon peel to twist

Stir the gin and bitters well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. To create a “nice two-tone effect”—the layered look of the port settling at the bottom of the cocktail glass—pour the port either very slowly over the back of a spoon or very gently down the side of the glass. Twist the peel over the drink and discard it.

The Princeton #1 is not to be confused with the Princeton #2, which is a martini to which some fool added lime juice. The Princeton #1 is not, moreover, a thing to be attempted after having drunk more than three of any cocktail. You need a steady hand in order to achieve the layering effect, the niftiness of which is the drink’s big selling point.

It is a limitation of the drink that the taste experience mirrors the visual one: The cocktail is not more than the sum of its parts. First sip is gin. Second sip is gin. Third sip, hey, that’s more gin. Things get more interesting once you dip into the port, even and especially if you set the drink aside for a while. The Princeton #1 is on the very short list of cocktails that get better as they warm up.

And what happens if you’re not accepted (albeit to play football) into the best school in the world? Do you drown your sorrows spitefully knocking back cocktails named for the university that rejected you?

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No, you get drunk on cheap beer and fall into a bowl of chili muttering “Princeton sucks.” — CC

Top image via SF Gate.

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