The Tale of Two Suffering Bastards
Ring the bell, it's time for Last Call, where JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice and recipes. Got a burning question for your bartender? Leave it in the comments and it might be answered in a future column.
See Also: Trader Vic's original Mai Tai, from yours truly.
This coming Monday is a somber anniversary for Valley boozehounds, one where I'm breaking out my black aloha shirt: July 30th marks a year since the closure of the legendary Trader Vic's at the Hotel Valley Ho. Vic's holds a special place for me; I was one of three people privileged to work there for its entire five-year run. It's where I got my start behind the stick, mixing up Mai Tais, Samoan Fogcutters, and Scorpions like nobody's business. Suffice to say, I don't even bat an eyelash when someone orders a Mojito anymore.
Of the 80-some drinks on the menu, the collective favorite of the staff was the Suffering Bastard. I think there were two reasons we loved it so much. One reason was that it's a darn tasty drink. Vic's version of the Suffering Bastard is a variation on his iconic Mai Tai. The two differ in two ways: The Suffering Bastard has a cucumber spear garnish, and it has a blend of three rums to the Mai Tai's solo Royal Amber rum. The other reason we liked it so much was because it had 25 percent more rum than the Mai Tai.
The more I worked at Vic's, the more fascinated I became with tiki culture. I researched all manner of vintage rum drinks, learning the stories and secrets behind them. One day, I found out that Vic's version of the Bastard wasn't even close to the original. It was created in the 1940s by Joe Scialom, the barkeep of the Long Bar at the Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo. If he had a rough night drinking the night before, a Suffering Bar Steward or two helped cure his hangover for the busy day ahead. One day, some British officers overheard him talking about the drink. They didn't quite hear him right, and ordered a round to toast the suffering bastard. The name stuck.
Much like the French 75, there are two schools of thought on the spirits to use in the original Bastard. Gin is always half of the equation. The other part is either bourbon or brandy, depending on who you ask. I give a slight nod to the brandy version, but sometimes I'll absent-mindedly reach for the bourbon. It's delicious either way.
Suffering Bastard à la Trader Vic's
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
¼ ounce orgeat syrup
½ ounce simple syrup
½ ounce orange curaçao
1 ounce (Puerto Rican) light rum
1 ounce (Martinique) gold rum
½ ounce (Jamaican) dark rum
Shake everything together with crushed ice. Pour into a double rocks glass. Garnish with a speared pineapple tidbit and maraschino cherry, a sprig of mint, and a thick spear of cucumber peel.
Original Suffering Bastard
½ ounce lime cordial (such as Rose's)
1 ounce gin
1 ounce brandy (or bourbon)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
4 ounces ginger beer
Shake first four ingredients with ice cubes. Strain into a double rocks glass over fresh ice. Add ginger beer, and garnish with an orange slice and mint sprig.