Opposites attract in this simple Lion’s Tail cocktail. Bourbon and lime are not usually known as a match made in cocktail heaven. However, allspice dram in this Prohibition Era libation is simply magical and tames the beast.
What is a Lion’s Tail cocktail?
The Lion’s Tail is a whiskey drink that could be described as a play on a whiskey sour. In a Lion’s Tail, the lime replaces the lemon that is usually found in a sour. The allspice dram is the secret ingredient that melds the flavors together in this almost forgotten cocktail.
A bit of history
In the 1920s and 1930s, London’s cocktail scene was becoming quite the landmark destination. With Prohibition raging on and speakeasys popping up in the US, some American bartenders and patrons crossed the pond to keep a job behind the bar or to wet their whistle.
Harry Craddock who was British born, but gained his bartending chops in America moved back to England during Prohibition. He was renowned as the head bartender at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel, wrote the infamous Savoy Cocktail Book, and was the president/founding member of the United Kingdom’s Bartenders Guild (UKBG).
Enter W.J. Tarling who went by Bill for those who knew him. He was a fellow UKBG member of Craddock’s and head bartender at the Café Royal in London. He saw the success that Harry Craddock had gained and saw an opportunity to do the same.
Café Royal cocktail book
Tarling’s Café Royal Cocktail Book (1937), for bartenders was printed only once and was known as the coronation edition. Prince Albert “Bertie”, a frequent visitor to the Café Royal, became King George VI on May 12, 1937 at his coronation in London, hence the book’s coronation edition.
Tarling’s book contained numerous cocktail recipes that were quite popular at the time. Many recipes he invented himself and others were contributed by his colleagues in the UKBG.
The Lion’s Tail creator was L.A. Clarke, but unfortunately he remains mostly a mystery. Some theorize he must have been an expiate American bartender due to the cocktail’s name.
The phrase, twisting the lion’s tail, perhaps may have been the inspiration for the drink’s moniker. In E. Cobham Brewer’s book, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898), the meaning behind the idiom is to provoke the British. In Brewer’s words, “Such provocation may provoke a growl, but there the matter will end”.
It is easy to see why some believe Clarke to be an American as the lion is a symbol for England. Therefore, we can infer that the name was a playful jest and obviously it wouldn’t have been given by a British bartender.
Mise en Place:
Ingredients & recipe prep
- Ingredients: bourbon, allspice dram, lime juice, rich simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and lime peel.
- Make: prepare a rich 2:1 simple syrup. Heat 1/2 cup water with 1 cup sugar over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Chill: put a coupe glass in the freezer at least 30 minutes before using.
- Peel: take a lime and peel the skin about 2 inches. Set aside to be used as garnish for the cocktail.
- Squeeze: use the same lime that the skin was peeled from and use a juicer to obtain 1/2 ounce of lime juice.
How to make a simple Lion’s Tail cocktail
Combine: pour 2 ounces of bourbon, 1/2 ounce of lime juice, 1/4 ounce of Allspice Dram (if using homemade allspice dram; 1/2 ounce if using Cotton & Reed), 1/4 ounce of rich simple syrup, and a dash of Angostura Bitters into a cocktail shaker.
Shake: next, add ice to shaker and agitate contents until shaker is frosty.
Strain: take out chilled coupe glass from the freezer. Double strain cocktail into glass.
Garnish: finally, twist the lime peel over the drink to lightly express the oil. Make slight tear in middle of peel and set on edge of glass. Serve and enjoy!
This recipe is more of a bourbon forward drink. It is just as pleasing if 1.5 ounces of bourbon is used, which then allows the allspice dram to shine more. Be creative and play around with measurements to find your perfect Lion’s Tail combination.
Lion’s Tail cocktail: tips & substitutions
Serve: The Lion’s Tail is a great drink to have before dinner. It’s warm spicy flavors pair well with a beautiful charcuterie board of nuts, dates, dried fruits, & cheeses as an appetizer.
Substitution: Why not try a Tiki twist on the Lion’s Tail? Substitute rum for the bourbon and add falernum to enrich the flavor and add that bit of Tiki.
Tiki Tail cocktail: by andrea McEvoy
- 1 ounce dark rum (Plantation or Cruzan)
- 1/2 ounce demerara rum (El Dorado 5 year)
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- 1/2 ounce Allspice Dram (Cotton & Reed)
- 1/4 ounce Falernum
- 1 teaspoon rich simple syrup
- dash of Angostura (optional)
Combine all liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until frosty. Double strain over crushed ice in a footed pilsner or shrub glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Lion’s Tail cocktail FAQ’s
The Lion’s Tail is a rich, bold, and spicy drink. Allspice dram connects the sweet bourbon notes with the hint of tartness by the lime. This unique mix of ingredients delivers nostalgic feelings of fall imbued by the allspice dram that truly could be enjoyed anytime of year!
Combining lime and bourbon along with allspice dram could dip the Lion’s Tail into the Tiki category for some. Most traditional Tiki drinks see rum paring with lime and adding allspice dram in many recipes, so it is not a stretch to think so. Perhaps L.A. Clarke was creating a riff on a Tiki drink, but we’ll never know for sure.
The best allspice dram to use in a Lion’s Tail cocktail, is the one you have! If you don’t want to go out and buy a whole bottle, then make your own allspice dram at home. If you don’t have the time for a simple DIY project, then both the St. Elizabeth and Cotton & Reed allspice drams will work deliciously well in this cocktail.
More allspice dram cocktails
One Last Tip: As pretty as the Lion’s Tail is in a coupe glass, I do enjoy this drink over ice in a rocks glass. The ice can help mellow the boozy aspect of this tasty cocktail.
Recipe for a simple Lion’s Tail cocktail
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1/4 ounce allspice dram
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- 1/4 ounce rich simple syrup
- 1 dash angostura bitters (optional)
- Garnish: lime peel
- Add bourbon, allspice dram, lime juice, rich simple syrup, and bitters into a shaker with ice.
- Shake container for about 10-12 seconds or until the shaker is frosty.
- Double strain cocktail into a chilled coupe glass.
- Twist lime peel over drink to express the oil, make a small tear in middle of peel, and set on edge of glass.
1. Make sure to put coupe glass in the freezer at least 30 minutes before using.
2. If using Cotton & Reed allspice dram, use 1/2 ounce in the recipe.