How to Make a Twentieth Century Cocktail
It's kind of fun looking through my bar books for some cocktailian inspiration. Quite a few of the recipes (especially the ones on the sticky pages, just like cookbooks) have memories attached to them, and good times are always involved. It beats the hell out of looking at now-questionable hairstyles in high school yearbooks, at least.
One of my more fondly remembered cocktails is a 1930s one called the Twentieth Century. It's named after the old Twentieth Century Limited rail line that ran from New York to Chicago in the mid-20th century. It was quite the classy way to travel, complete with a specially made carpet for passengers to walk on from the station to the train. You've heard the phrase "rolling out the red carpet," right? The Twentieth Century Limited is the origin.
Many recipes for the Twentieth Century call for Lillet Blanc. It makes sense, as all of the old recipes called for Lillet. The thing is, in the 1980s Lillet was reformulated. The old Lillet formula was Kina Lillet, which is more bitter and less fruit-forward than modern Lillet Blanc. Thankfully, the aperitif Cocchi Americano has a taste very similar to the old Kina Lillet.
The fascinating ingredient in a Twentieth Century is crème de cacao. One wouldn't expect to see chocolate liqueur in a cocktail with gin and lemon, but the combination works strikingly well.
When you have the proportions just right, the taste will start with the piney gin, bitter Cocchi Americano, and tangy lemon, but then you get just a little bass note of chocolate right at the end. Depending on your brand of crème de cacao, you may need to fiddle with the amount a little bit. If you get the chocolate flavor right at the start of a sip, cut back until the chocolate is a pronounced whisper.
Savvy readers will notice a similar profile between a Twentieth Century and another vintage drink, the Corpse Reviver. They're both nice drinks, and both quite different due to the change in supporting players. Try both of them side by side if you're so inclined.
Twentieth Century Cocktail
1-1/2 ounces London Dry gin
3/4 ounce Cocchi Americano (substitute Lillet Blanc if necessary)
1/2 ounce white crème de cacao
3/4 ounce lemon juice
Shake well with ice cubes. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.