McKinleys Delight – Old Waldorf Bar Days
One dash Absinthe
Two dashes Cherry Brandy
One-third Italian Vermuth
Back in 1806 when we see the definition of a cocktail first appear in print it talks about it being an ‘excellent electioneering potion’. Back in those days to get a crowd along to listen to your pitch, the trick was free booze, as was noted it was ‘great use to a democratic candidate because a person having swallowed a glass of it was ready to swallow anything else’. Fast forward 90 years and a lot has and hasn’t changed, now firmly in the golden age of cocktails the masses aren’t just drinking any old booze off the back of a wagon, now presidents have drinks named after them, and this is a keeper. McKinley’s Delight was created in 1896 to celebrate the 25th president’s election, his opposition William Jennings Bryan had one during the running, a Gin Rickey renamed a ‘Free Silver Fizz’ so it would seem he was not to be outdone. He was elected during the years following ‘The Panic of 1893’ and seemed to do a remarkable job, so much so that along with Teddy Roosevelt just back from drinking Cuba Libres and crushing the Spanish with his rough riders in Santiago he successfully ran for re-election against the same William Jennings Bryan. It just goes to show, if you want a drink to help pitch yourself to the American people there’s nothing more American than a Manhattan to help prop up your campaign. What was William Jennings Bryan thinking? Gin Rickey indeed.
Now McKinley was a devout Methodist, a denomination which required total abstinence from booze, and at time when several states where toying with the idea with prohibition I’m not sure how many of these McKinley actually had, he certainly doesn’t look like the kind of man to compromise his religious morals, which would have been a shame as the drink is a great one, albeit a little obvious. Its essentially a Manhattan with a dash of absinthe, in fact its exactly the recipe William Schmidt used for a Manhattan when it first appeared in print in 1892, just prior to ‘The Panic’ except swapping sugar syrup for cherry brandy.
I can’t help thinking that if Hillary had glanced at that excerpt from the Columbian Repository from 1806, and her people had come up with a killer drink, 2016 may have gone a little better for her.