Despite its strange name, the Monkey Gland is a surprisingly tasty cocktail. It's an unusual mix of Dry Gin, Absinthe, grenadine, and orange juice. And the color of the drink is extraordinary, too: a bright, almost glowing tone, somewhere between orange and pink.
The Monkey Gland Cocktail is one of many drinks invented in Harry MacElhone's bar in Paris, the famous Harry's New York bar. Among them are the Angel Face and the White Lady.
The original Monkey Gland recipe would be risky to serve these days, though. It was equal amounts of Gin and orange juice which made the drink very sweet.
However, today's palates usually are more accustomed to sour recipes. When adjusting the recipe and balancing the ingredients better, the drink actually tastes quite good. -Even for today's standards.
For the Monkey Gland you need Gin, Absinthe, grenadine and orange juice. The latter should ideally be freshly squeezed, because then it is less sweet and tastes more natural.
Grenadine in cocktails is generally controversial, as it usually tastes too intense, too sweet and too artificial. If you want a more natural taste here, I recommend making your own at home.
Further, the choice of Gin is key to a good Monkey Gland. However, with so many types, it can be difficult to pick the right one.
In this case, a classic Dry Gin works best due to its low sugar content. Combined with freshly squeezed orange juice and a decent Absinthe, you get a pleasant cocktail.
History of the Monkey Gland cocktail
There's a debate about who actually created the Monkey Gland cocktail first. Either Frank Meier, former bartender of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, or Harry MacElhone himself in the aforementioned New York Bar.
Yet, most cocktail historians agree on the latter and credit the invention to Harry MacElhone. But either way, the drink was born in France.
What is also certain is that the Monkey Gland Cocktail got served for the first time during the early 1920s. That is well-documented because there are newspaper articles from 1923 praising the cocktail and its recipe.
Later, in 1930 it also appeared in MacElhone's book Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails.
Why it's called Monkey Gland
Monkey Gland sounds like an odd and confusing name for a drink. And sure thing, it is. But rest assured that the cocktail ingredients have absolutely nothing to do with the testicles or any other part of a monkey's s body. -No monkeys got hurt in connection with the drink's development.
It takes a short detour into French history to know why the drink got a name like that:
In the 1920s, a French Surgeon named Serge Voronoff claimed that transplanting monkey testicles into the human scrotum would increase life expectancy. -In his experiments, which sadly did involve monkeys getting hurt, he claimed to have seen "signs of increased vitality".
During the 1920s, Voronoff transplanted monkey testicles as often as a few hundred times. And that was around the same time Harry MacElhone invented this drink.
So the name of the Monkey Gland was a -at least back then- "fun" reference to a, back then, controversial and, by today's standards, despicable medical treatment. -That naturally turned out to be complete bollocks.
The connection between those experiments and the name of the Monkey Gland Cocktail was also confirmed by Harry MacElhone himself.
- 2 oz Dry Gin
- 0.75 oz Freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp Grenadine syrup e.g., Giffard or homemade
- 0.5 tsp Absinthe
- 1 orange peel for garnish
- Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.2 oz Dry Gin, 0.75 oz Freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 tsp Grenadine syrup, 0.5 tsp Absinthe
- Shake until the drink is well-chilled and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Garnish with an orange peel. Enjoy!
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