The Canadian Cocktail

Aug 5, 2017

Absolutely nothing about the Canadian Cocktail screams Canada. Just as I was about to blame Leo Cotton for this seemingly bizarre northern themed recipe, I discovered that tonight’s cocktail is much older than the 1935 book I’m drinking from.

The first insistence I found of the Canadian Cocktail is from Hugo Ensslin’s 1917 “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”. Like my trusty Mr. Boston’s published, the pre-Prohibition Canadian Cocktail is a blend of:

  • Lemon Juice
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Curacao
  • Jamaica Rum

When I think of our friendly neighbors to the north, none of those ingredients jump to mind. I sought some answers from the internet and searched high and low for a connection between Canada and the Caribbean around 1917.

Canada had won it’s independence from Great Britain in 1867 but Jamaica remained a part of the crown until 1962. I didn’t really see any historical event that would have linked these two together during WWI only, it does appear that Canada and Jamaica have been, and continue to be, close allies for sometime.

Just as I was about to give up, I came across an interesting nugget…

Though Canada did not have an official prohibition of alcohol as we did in the U.S., they did have the War Measures Act of 1914.

The War Measures Act was a federal enactment which granted the Canadian provinces easy means to ban alcohol in their area if they desired to. By 1918, most of the provinces and the Yukon Territory had chosen to ban the importation of liquor and we American’s helped smuggle booze up to the thirsty masses.

A liquor raid in 1925, in Elk Lake, Ontario

A liquor raid in 1925, in Elk Lake, Ontario

Unlike the Volstead Act, the Canadian liquor ban did not last very long. By 1919, the Yukon and Quebec returned to their drinking ways and the rest of the country followed.

It seems like a strange coincidence that Canada became wet, just as America went dry.

With booze no longer flowing north and many American distilleries shuttering, Canada’s alcohol production and export sky rocketed.

Rum running liquor from Canada south became quite profitable. Running ships could go between the two countries by ocean or through the Great Lakes moving Canadian Whisky, Jamaican Rum, and spirits from Europe. Keeping the ships 12 miles from American shores, in international waters, kept the smugglers on the safe side of the law.

My theory is that the Canadian Cocktail is a nod to the rum running that took place around 1917. An inside joke if you will. I can’t figure out any other reason for the disconnect between the name and the ingredients.

Both recipes, the 1917 and the 1935, call for the same ingredients and quantities. Despite an urge to reduce the 1/2 of a lemon down to a 1/4, I followed the recipe to the letter. I’m glad I did.

The jigger of Curaco called for, makes the Canadian Cocktail quite sweet. Paired with 3/4 teaspoon of powdered sugar, I knew that this recipe relied on the lemon juice to tone it down.

The 1/3 teaspoon of Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum really didn’t come through, but the cocktail was still very nice. Both Ryan and I were surprised that we enjoyed a drink with such a large quantity of lemon juice.

To test our theory about the Rum measure, I added another 1/2 teaspoon in to the 3 ounce coupe glass and gave it a stir. While I still liked the drink, it may have actually lost something by upping the Rum.

The Canadian Cocktail may not be very Canadian but it is very good. If you’re a fan of tropical fare, this recipe is a must try. Salud!