Despite its strange name, the Monkey Gland was once a pretty popular cocktail. Invented in Paris sometime in the 1920s, the drink had been a regular serve in Harry's New York Bar.
Today, the mix of dry gin, absinthe, grenadine, and orange juice comes across as somewhat outdated. Also, the bright, almost glowing orange color is a little odd.
Quick Facts Monkey Gland Cocktail
- Method: shaken
- Flavor profile: sweet, fruity
- How to serve it: straight up
- Glassware: coupe glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 25.5% ABV, 22.5 grams of alcohol per serving
Indeed, the original recipe would be risky to serve these days. It was equal amounts of gin and orange juice, making the drink very sweet.
Our palates today are more accustomed to sour recipes, so here's the modernized version of the Monkey Gland.
- 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!
For the Monkey Gland recipe, you need the following ingredients:
- Gin: the choice of gin is key to a good Monkey Gland. With so many types, it can be challenging to pick the right one. For this recipe, however, a classic dry gin works best due to its low sugar content.
- Absinthe: Just a splash brings in a subtle note of anise.
- Grenadine: Grenadine in cocktails is generally controversial, as it usually tastes too sweet and too artificial. If you want a more natural taste here, I recommend making your own at home.
- Orange Juice: The orange juice should definitely be freshly squeezed. It tastes more natural and less sweet, and you'll be surprised how much of a difference this makes for the end result.
Best Practises to Make the Drink
Follow our quick tips and tricks to make the most of the somewhat unbalanced recipe.
First, make sure that the glass you will serve your drink in is chilled - either put it in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes or cool it down with ice cubes while mixing.
Second, as mentioned already, use fresh orange juice. It will make all the difference! I further advise to double strain to remove all fruit fibers.
Third, shake for at least 15 seconds to cool the ingredients enough and to obtain the necessary dilution for your Monkey Gland.
If you have a sweet tooth, you can try and make a version of the Monkey Gland Cocktail with equal parts gin and orange juice and only half the amount of absinthe:
- 1.5 oz gin
- 1.5 oz orange juice
- 1 tsp grenadine
- 1/2 tsp absinthe
That is actually the original formula as published in 1930.
Should our adjusted version in the recipe card above still be too sweet for you, try increasing the absinthe a little more. The more anise-heavy flavor is not for everyone, but I find it very pleasant with the other elements of this drink.
History of the Monkey Gland Cocktail
The Monkey Gland Cocktail is one of many drinks invented in Harry MacElhone's bar in Paris, the famous Harry's New York bar.
Yet, 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.
Most cocktail historians seem to agree on the latter and credit the invention to Harry MacElhone, along with numerous other recipes like the Angel Face and the White Lady. However, questioning one of the prominent researchers, David Wondrich also didn't deliver a conclusive answer.
Either way, the drink was born in France, and we know that the Monkey Gland Cocktail got served for the first time during the early 1920s. That is well-documented by newspaper articles from 1923, praising the cocktail and its recipe.
One of them was an often-quoted article in the Washington Post from April 28th, 1923 (see image). Later, it later appeared in MacElhone's books Barflies and Cocktails and Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails, in 1927 and 1930, respectively.
Why it's called Monkey Gland
The name of the Monkey Gland Cocktail was a -at least at the time- "fun" reference to a controversial and, by today's standards, appalling and cruel medical treatment.
Monkey Gland sounds like an odd and confusing name for a drink. And sure thing, it is:
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, he had claimed to have seen "signs of increased vitality".
During the following years, Voronoff transplanted monkey testicles as often as a few hundred times. -All was total nonsense, of course.
It was around the same time the drink came up. The connection between those experiments and the name of the Monkey Gland Cocktail was also confirmed by Harry MacElhone himself. -And its ingredients have absolutely nothing to do with the testicles of monkeys.