A Brief History of the Classic Casino Cocktail
Picture a world without the classic Casino cocktail. Much like the classic film without its leading star, it might be watchable, but bereft of the essential pull that makes the experience stand apart. This understated, yet elegant gin-based cocktail might not be as sought-after as a Dirty Martini, or as boisterous as a Negroni, but it carries a unique charm that’s making quiet waves among mixologists.
Let's turn the clock back to the early 20th century. The Casino first appeared in 1917 in Recipes for Mixed Drinks, written by renowned bartender Hugo Ensslin. At the time, Ensslin was head bartender at New York City’s Hotel Wallick on the well-known 43rd Street. The recipe rose to fame again after finding a mention in Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930. Since then, it has been reinvented by bartenders across the world while still honouring the original composition.
Today, we’re showing you the best and easiest way to make it.
The original Casino recipe calls for Old Tom gin; however, this version has been tweaked to the properties of London Dry, which is more widely available and less sweet. Pour 45 ml Tanqueray London Dry Gin into a shaker, forming a strong foundation for the drink. The gin’s crisp and spicy notes will find more room to play as you add 15 ml of maraschino liqueur, a cherry-flavoured spirit that carries a faint sweetness that grows on you with each sip. The acidity of fresh lemon juice, about 15 ml, cuts through with a fresh kick, while a couple of dashes of orange bitters bring a complex, citrusy depth.
Once the ingredients have been added to a shaker filled with ice, shake vigorously. This not only chills the drink, but also helps to integrate all the flavours. Once ready, double-strain it into a chilled coupe glass. If you like to make things fancy, garnish with a cherry that has been preserved in syrup or brandy. The traditional garnish is that of a lemon twist and a maraschino cherry, which makes for a great visual as well.
As a side note, pairing food with a Casino would make for a wholesome experience. A charcuterie board with mild cheeses, like Brie or Camembert, and some prosciutto would be an ideal choice alongside the drink. The saltiness of the cold cuts and the richness of the cheese would beautifully balance the sweet and tangy profile of the cocktail. For a vegetarian option, you could whip up a bruschetta with ripe tomatoes and a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
For those interested in a Casino free of alcohol, a mocktail version can be just as delightful. Replace the gin with a non-alcoholic spirit and the maraschino liqueur with a cherry syrup. This recipe maintains the balance of sweet and sour, offering an inclusive experience for all. And since drinking is most fun when done responsibly, remember to sip slowly, letting all the notes of the drink hit you in their own time.