The Crow

1.5 oz Redbreast Whiskey
1.5 oz Lemon Juice
1.5 tsp Grenadine

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass.
Shake with large ice and strain into a coupe.

* * *

Here’s the five second version of what I have written below: if you are a Whiskey Sour lover, stop reading right now and go make yourself a Crow. That’s all you need to know.  As for the rest of you…

There are those moments in movies where the impossible happens.  Moments where the underdog, counted out long before, rises from the flames and unleashes a miracle we never saw coming.  Our hearts break as they sings, and for a passing instant, at least, we are warmed by the eternal fire of humanity.  I feel that way about whiskey.  Although I’ve been advised to remove whiskey from the list more than any other bottle, there are moments when whiskey — and whiskey alone — breaks through the airport throng, claws its way to the gate, and professes its undying love for me just seconds before I’m to fly away forever.  I love you too, whiskey (especially in your Redbreast finery), and just when everyone counted you out, you pull something like the Crow out of your bag of tricks.

I find the Crow in two of my books, both of which peg it to be a Prohibition creation.  It’s very similar in ingredients to the Scofflaw (minus the Scofflaw’s Vermouth), and indeed the few modern recipes I’ve found favor proportions similar to those of the Scofflaw, or the Sour for that matter:  two parts spirit to one part each of juice and grenadine.  I’m going to disagree.

The “Savoy Cocktail Book” calls for twice as much lemon juice as Whisky.  “Boothby’s World Drinks” specifies equal parts.  To me, this adjustment in proportions — an equal or greater amount of juice to spirit — makes all the difference.  Both recipes also call for “Whisky”.  Whiskey with the “e” is the American or Irish spelling.  Without an “e”, it’s Scottish or, by way of colonization, Canadian. In Prohibition recipes, especially those originating in America, Whisky without an “e” typically meant Canadian-produced substitutes for Bourbon or Rye.  Because such substitution became so commonplace and due to the fact that, as Ted Haigh puts it, Canadian Whisky “often contained a higher percentage of rye to, say, uranium”, it is confused with real Rye Whiskey.  In actuality, Canadian Whisky is typically a blend of predominately grain neutral spirits (think Everclear).  Fortunately, with real Rye easily accessible, modern drink archeologists such as Haigh have corrected the errors of old.

But, I’m not calling for Rye here.  The reason is that the earliest reference I have for the Crow is the Savoy book, and the Savoy being English, I figured if they called for Whisky, even during the United States’ Prohibition, they would have had access to the Scottish product even more readily than the Canadian.  Of course, my library is limited, so if the Crow did originate in America (and I’m just unaware), I stand by my option to claim a “mea culpa” and call this version a “Red Crow” instead.  Backing me up though is Simon Difford, kingpin of British drinking guides.  His books call for Scottish Whisky.  Our closest bottle is Redbreast, a barley whiskey like the Scottish, and here it’s lovely.

The combination of grenadine and citrus has become one of my favorites, no matter what the spirit.  Whether in a Jack Rose (Apple Brandy), the Monkey Gland (Gin), the Scofflaw (Rye), or here, in the Crow.  The grenadine, of course, should be homemade — it makes all the difference in the world.  Like great Italian food, the Crow is a symphony of three simple ingredients – producing something that is so very much more than just the sum of its parts.  In my book, that something is liquid love.  In fact, I think I hear the Crow now – a outside my window, boombox blaring “In Your Eyes” held high overhead.  Yes, Crow, I love you too.

Halloween Esoterica: Not only are the Irish responsible for some amazing Whiskey, they’re also apparently to blame for the Jack O’ Lantern:

The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”



7 responses to “The Crow

  1. Whenever I see the words “The Crow”, I still think of a particular Jet Lee movie. After I read the first part, I decided that I needed to the store to get some grenadine ASAP.

  2. Few Points: The Savoy Cocktail Book never spells Whisky with an “e”.

    The Crow cocktail was likely sourced from a prohibition era cocktail book circa 1927 called “Here’s How” by a man who published under the pen name “Judge Jr.”

    The recipe in “Here’s How” is as follows: “2/3 Scotch; 1/3 Lemon Juice; a dash of Grenadine.”

    • Erik – Thanks for the insight. I certainly haven’t been through the Savoy like you have, but I have seen Canadian (Club) Whisky (and well as Irish Whisky, with no “e”) called for specifically, and it’s on that small bit of deduction that I based my opinion. Strange the Savoy would invert the spirit and juice proportions versus Here’s How. Do you have a preference? I really like Boothby’s 50-50 version, as stated in the post.

      Note: Anyone reading this should check out Erik’s site. Among other things, he’s an expert on the Savoy Cocktail book.

  3. About all I can say is I suspect the recipes in The Savoy Cocktail Book were not particularly carefully transcribed or the book very well edited.

    As an example, I recently encountered the exact same recipe for the Victor Cocktail on reverse sides of the same page.

  4. Pingback: Paddy Cocktail | 12 Bottle Bar

  5. Pingback: Savoy Cocktail of the Week: The Crow Cocktail | Words to Bumble

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