The Bamboo Cocktail

May 9, 2017

It sounds like a popular Tiki Era cocktail of the 1950’s, but Mr. Boston’s next recipe is said to have originated 127 years ago!

The Bamboo Cocktail marks the sixth “B” section recipe in our 1935 recipe adventure. Rather than the tropical ingredients that first come to mind when the word Bamboo is used, this 3 ounce cocktail is comprised of Sherry, Italian Vermouth and a dash of bitters.

I’m always curious to learn a little more about the name behind the drink. Luckily for me, I stumbled onto a post by that gave some insight into the cocktails origins.

The article claims that the Bamboo originated in Yokohama, Japan at a hotel partly owned by American soldiers in search of bringing some U.S. cocktail flair to their temporary home.

Credited to Louis Eppinger, the manager of the Grand Hotel, the Bamboo Cocktail is said to have gained such popularity it became a regular menu item throughout America 11 years after its creation. The drink was so loved that it was transformed into a ready-to-enjoy bottled beverage at one point in time.

I took a glance at Hugo Ensslin’s 1917 cocktail book to see if this recipe had been included. Sure enough it was!

My trusty Mr. Boston’s book notes the same 1/2 Sherry, 1/2 Vermouth ratio but lacks one key element. Rather than clearly calling for Angostura Bitters, Leo Cotton opted to throw caution to the wind and merely state 1 dash of bitters.

Silly me decided to mix up the Bamboo before consulting the 1917 book. While my go-to for this series has been the Angostura, for some reason I decided to try out the recipe using Peychaud’s.

After shaking the drink over ice as instructed and straining my cocktail into our lone 3 ounce cocktail glass, I decided to glance at Ensslin’s recipe. Instantly I discovered my boo boo. Though my lovely Bamboo Cocktail photo shoot was all garnished and ready for its close up, I set off to mix up a “proper” Bamboo to see what each tasted like side by side.

As Ryan keenly observed, the coloring of the Peychaud’s Bamboo Cocktail was better for the photo. The red hue of this particular bitter warmed the drink tone up while the orange / brown coloring of Angostura was muddier. Flavor wise, the Angostura won hands down. The strong Wormwood bite from our Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth needed the citrus zing of the Angostura to mellow the bitterness. Peychaud’s only added to the bitterness of the drink. I gracefully gave the better Bamboo Cocktail to Ryan for his enjoyment and I took the Peychaud’s. It only became more bitter as the glass warmed to room temperature 🙁

Mr. Boston’s has since rectified their mistake and their online recipe now calls for Orange Bitters. They have also changed the ratio of ingredients a bit. Rather than calling for equal parts Sherry to Vermouth, the new recipe upped the Sherry and lowered the Vermouth to a mere 3/4 ounce. Personally, I think this is a mistake.

At equal parts, the Sherry was a bit heavy for my taste buds. Adding more would seem unbalanced. I think to best sounding adaptation I’ve run into in my quest for knowledge is this recipe reprinted by Tales of the Cocktail. The recipe is from Shake. Stir. Sip by Kara Newman. I think I may check it out tonight 🙂

Not knowing what Mr. Cotton meant by 1/2 I opted to make my Bamboo trials with 1 ounce of Very Dry Sherry, 1 ounce of Italian Vermouth and a dash of bitters. Both Ryan and I really enjoyed the Angostura version but the Peychaud’s was a no go. Not horrible, but not pleasant. Another score for Hugo.

As soon as Ryan gets off the roof, we can head home and get started on tonight’s drink the Barbary Coast Cocktail. Ummmm…. Scotch!