In my latest travels I visited the Pegu Club in New York City, which is intended to replicate the spirit of the original Pegu Club in Rangoon. Its newest incarnation is a respectable place to seek a tipple, though it is far from mind-blowing. I was not expecting to have my mind blown; given the club’s history, I was expecting a very conservative menu, and that was exactly what I found.
Pisco Punch — I adore this pineapple leaf garnish.
The copy on the inside of the menu does a better job of describing the place than I am likely to, so I shall reproduce it here:
“Back when Britain still had an empire and the sun never set on it, the Pegu Club was a British Colonial Officers’ club in Rangoon. Not much of anything to do there, mind you, but as Kipling wrote in “Sea to Sea”, this funny little club “was always filled with lots of people either on their way up or on their way down.” If the club was famous for anything, it was its house cocktail: as master mixologist Harry Craddock wrote in the classic 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, the Pegu Club Cocktail “has traveled, and is asked for, around the world.” Small wonder–it’s a perfect indicator of the drinking culture of those randy times. But this bracing combination of gin, bitters, lime juice, and orange curaçao is no dusty antique. To this day, it remains as crisp, snappy, and briskly potent as when our grandparents were drinking it. As old souls, we cherish that.”
The menu continues in that vein, but you get the idea. I have mixed a Pegu Club or two in the past, but it had been quite a while since I had had one, and it was a delight to order the drink at the actual (sort of) Pegu Club. I am not as fascinated by this drink as some people, but as the Pegu Blog was my first encounter with the world of craft mixology, it will always have a special place in my heart.
Their technique was flawless, and it was a true pleasure to observe. Their menu features slight twists on many of the best and most famous classics. As I already noted, there is nothing mind-blowing here, but you have to respect a menu that features a negroni, a sidecar, a manhattan, a pisco sour, a daquiri, a whiskey smash, a dark and stormy, and a martini, and yet twists each of them in a way that maintains the drinker’s interest.
All of those drinks are the bedrock of classic mixology. The gin-gin mule seems to be very popular lately, and has received a lot of acclaim. I think this owes to the fact that moscow mules suck (vodka, yuck!), and the gin-gin mule is a way of reclaiming this classic.
The Pegu Club
1.5 oz. Dry Gin
.5 oz. Triple Sec (I suggest Patron Citronge)
.5 oz. Lime Juice
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and garnish with a lime wedge, decoratively zested.
If you were a heathen, you might even call it a gin margarita with bitters, and no salt. And what’s this?! From the picture, and from my careful observations, I noticed that the Pegu Club did not double-strain their shaken drinks! It is for shame, Pegu Club, for shame!
Tantris Sidecar – with a very slight coating of sugar on the rim, difficult to discern.
A good showing from the Pegu Club, but if your tastes range to the more avant-garde and exotic, you might be better served elsewhere. Aside from the lack of double straining, mentioned above, I did have one other complaint. It is a subjective matter, but my review would not be complete if I did not mention it. I watched them make a number of sours and I observed that they used a ratio of 2:1 sweet:sour. This makes for an unobjectionable drink with mass appeal, but it is not to my taste.
I favor a dryer, more challenging sour, or in the words of Nietzsche, a drink which “kisses as it bites you”. The 2:1 ratio of sugar to acid is far too gentle. Even so, it would be an act of good taste for you to visit this bar.