Spring Frivolity: Vermouth-Cassis from the 1930s

Vermouth CassisSo far, the recipes I’ve been reading in my grandmother’s cookbooks from the 1930s focus more on healthy family dinners than frivolity. My search for something more festive took me to the Chanticleer Society’s post for the top cocktails of 1934, originally published in Esquire magazine. This was a bountiful year in cocktail history, as the nationwide prohibition on alcohol ended in 1933 (a bar near Boston’s State House, the 21st Amendment, commemorates the official change to the U.S. Constitution).

Vermouth Cassis, Number 5 on the Esquire list, is a light, refreshing aperitif, a cousin of sorts to Kir. The drink apparently comes from Paris, where it is called a Pompier (translation: fireman) for reasons I couldn’t ascertain. The New York Public Library’s menu site brought me to a description of this drink at the Plaza Hotel bar as “cassis, French Vermouth, carbonic, lemon peel.” Carbonic, I discovered, is just a scientific-sounding name for carbonated water. For a recipe, I went back to Esquire magazine, where a 2007 article by David Wondrich listed the proportions. The drink’s violet hue goes well with spring pastels.

Vermouth Cassis (1930s)
Serves 1

1/2 ounce crème de cassis
3 ounces dry vermouth
Seltzer, to taste
Twist of lemon

  1. Place the crème de cassis and vermouth in a highball glass.
  2. Add seltzer to taste and stir.
  3. Finish with ice cubes and garnish with a twist of lemon.
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About heritagerecipebox

I am named after my great-grandmother, who only prepared two dishes, according to anyone who remembers: hamburgers shaped like squares and peanut butter sandwiches. Fast forward 100 years and 500 miles north from my hometown of Richmond, Virginia to Boston, Massachusetts. Somehow, I ended up with a cooking gene as well as an interest in history and family stories. I have worked as a journalist and published three cookbooks plus a memoir. This blog gives me a chance to share family recipes and stories -- and other American recipes with a past. What do you have to share?
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