The name Suffering Bastard can refer to two very different drinks. The traditional one was intended for allied troops during World War II, while the other was part of the Tiki cocktail culture in the 1960s. But today, the original version is more popular. And that is also the version listed by the IBA.
The Suffering Bastard originally is based on two different types of spirit: Gin and Brandy. Lime juice, Angostura cocktail bitters, and ginger beer are there to balance the drink. However, there are many variations. For instance, one uses Bourbon instead of Brandy. But I’ll get to that later and start with the history of the cocktail instead.
History of the Suffering Bastard cocktail
Not many popular cocktails in the world of mixology can say that their origin lies in Africa. But the Suffering Bastard can. On top of this, the story of it and its inventor is a truly fascinating one. So first things first, I start with Joe Scialom – the inventor of the Suffering Bastard cocktail.
Joe Scialom is an Egyptian Jew with an Italian background. Born and raised in Egypt, he soon found out his love for chemistry. As a trained chemist, he even went to Sudan for work. Ultimately he started to use his theoretical chemistry skills for mixology and worked as a barman.
During World War II, he was barkeeping in Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. At that time, British troops fought Erwin Rommel and the German soldiers and tried to push them back to Tunisia. And during the war, liquor supply was an issue, so the British soldiers soon woke up to horrible hangovers due to the consumption of low-quality spirits.
In an effort to help with what he could do best, Scialom developed a recipe that was supposed to act as a hangover cure for the allied troops. And, well, it did. The drink quickly became very popular amongst British soldiers. So popular, in fact, that troops started telegramming the hotel to order more supplies. By the end of the battles, gallons of Suffering Bastard have been delivered right to the front lines.
In the end, the British succeeded and pushed Rommel and his soldiers back to the neighboring country of Tunisia. And also, Scialom became the inventor of one of the most famous drinks created during that time.
Variations of the Suffering Bastard cocktail
According to Joe Scialoms daughter, the traditional recipe of the Suffering Bastard asks for Brandy, Gin, lime juice, Angostura bitters, and ginger beer. Later on, Bourbon became a common substitute for the Brandy in the recipe. Even Scialom himself occasionally did that and called this variant the Dying Bastard. And a base of Bourbon and Rum was called a Dead Bastard.
If you aim for that kick of ginger the drink is known for, you have to use ginger beer. I specifically want to point this out because many recipes ask for ginger ale instead. -And that’s a very different thing. Ginger ale is a lot sweeter, less spicy, and is only a valid option if there’s no ginger beer available. Also, that the resulting drink will be sweeter, too, and a lot less spicy. Not ideal if you ask me.
Suffering Bastard – the Tiki cocktail version
Trader Vic, a famous representative of the Tiki cocktail culture, also created a drink with the name Suffering Bastard. His version is obviously based on Rum and got published in written form in 1968. Trader Vic’s Pacific Island Cookbook contained a recipe listing light and dark Rum, lime juice, Curaçao, orgeat syrup, and rock candy syrup.
As you can see, the recipe is far from the original one Joe Scialom developed.
- 1 oz Cognac
- 1 oz Dry Gin
- 0.5 oz Lime cordial
- 0.5 oz Fresh lime juice
- 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 3 oz Ginger beer
- 1 Mint sprig
- Add Cognac, Gin, lime cordial, lime juice, and Angostura bitters into your cocktail shaker together with plenty of ice.1 oz Cognac, 1 oz Dry Gin, 0.5 oz Lime cordial, 0.5 oz Fresh lime juice, 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
- Shake until the drink is well-chilled.
- Strain into a Tiki mug or Collins glass and top with ginger beer.3 oz Ginger beer
- Garnish with a sprig of mint.1 Mint sprig