Fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail is a modern seasonal twist on Jerry Thomas’ (1862: 157) recipe for a fancy brandy cocktail appearing in his Bar-tender’s Guide using homemade vintage quince cordial flavoured with ginger and rose, curacao, orange bitters, topped with champagne and garnished with a lemon, a demerara sugar rim and lemon twist. The flavours in the fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail are fresh, floral, citrus – uplifting, finished with the clean spritz of tart champagne bubbles and sweet lemon oil. David Wondrich (2015: 234) in Imbibe writes that when a fancy brandy cocktail is topped with chilled champagne it can be called a ‘Chicago Cocktail’ or ‘Saratoga Cocktail’ and dates just prior to prohibition. So the fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail could also be called a Quince Chicago or Saratoga Cocktail. The fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail is a fancy golden hued quince brandy cocktail with notes of rose and ginger, orange bitters and liqueur that is decorated with a lemon rim finished with shining jewel like demerara sugar and a lemon twist, finished with effervescent champagne bubbles. The fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail is a golden cocktail calling us back to the golden age of cocktails prior to prohibition.
What is a fancy brandy cocktail? Brief history and related cocktails, brandy cocktail, brandy crusta, Chicago Cocktail, Saratoga Cocktail
A fancy brandy cocktail is the same as a brandy cocktail which calls for gum syrup, bitters, brandy, curacao and lemon peel stirred with ice in a ’small bar glass’ (Thomas 1862: 155-8) except that it is presented in a ‘fancy wineglass’ with a lemon twist and the ‘edge of the glass moistened with lemon’. Dale DeGroff (2001: 91) in The Craft of the cocktail notes that the brandy cocktail and fancy brandy cocktail as described by Jerry Thomas (1862) are essentially the same drink, but the presentation is more elaborate for the fancy version with the addition of a lemon twist. David Wondrich (2015: 234) writes that when the drink was topped with chilled champagne at the ‘old Waldorf-Astoria’ it was called a ‘Chicago Cocktail’ and elsewhere a ‘Saratoga Cocktail’. A brandy crusta is made to the same formula as a brandy cocktail but a little lemon juice and ice is added, the lemon rim is dipped in sugar and the lemon twist becomes a more elaborate lemon spiral that sits snuggly within the rim of the glass (Thomas 1862: 161-2).
How to make a fancy brandy cocktail and related cocktails, brandy cocktail, brandy crusta, Chicago Cocktail, Saratoga Cocktail
Jerry Thomas (1862: 155-158, 161-2) writes of the brandy cocktail, fancy brandy cocktail and brandy crusta to be prepared in a ‘small bar glass’. The brandy cocktail does not have another type of glassware specified and it seems it was served in the small bar glass in which it was mixed with the ice still present similar to the manner in which an old fashioned cocktail is made and served in the glass (Wondrich 2015: 232). Whereas the fancy brandy cocktail and the brandy crusta are both stirred with ice in the small bar glass or tumbler and then strained into a fancy wine glass that is garnished with a lemon rim and twist and the fancier lemon sugar rim and lemon spiral crusta garnish (Thomas 1862: 155-8, 161-2). If the cocktail was topped with champagne as a Chicago or Saratoga it could have a lemon sugar rim as with Craddock’s (1930: 577) recipe appearing in The Savoy Cocktail Book. Jerry Thomas (1862: 155-158, 161-2) writes of his brandy cocktail, fancy brandy cocktail and brandy crusta:
Brandy cocktail: stir with ice in small bar glass and serve in the same glass with ice – Jerry Thomas (1862: 156-7)
“Squeeze the lemon peel; fill one-third full of ice and stir with a spoon.”
Fancy brandy cocktail: stir with ice and strain into a fancy wine glass with lemon rim & twist – Jerry Thomas (1862: 157-8)
“This drink is made the same as the Brandy Cocktail, except that it is strained in a fancy wineglass, and a piece of lemon peel is thrown on top, and the edge of the glass moistened with lemon.”
Crusta cocktail: add lemon juice, stir & strain into fancy wineglass with lemon sugar rim, lemon spiral – Jerry Thomas (1862: 161-2)
“Crusta is made the same as a fancy cocktail, with a little lemon juice, and a small lump of ice added…take a fancy red wine glass, rub a sliced lemon around the rim…and dip it in pulverized white sugar…Pare half a lemon the same as you would an apple (all in one piece) so that the paring will fit in the wineglass…and strain the crusta from the tumbler into it. Then smile.”
Chicago Cocktail, Saratoga Cocktail: Shake with ice, strain, top with champagne, lemon sugar rim
To make a Chicago Cocktail or a Saratoga Cocktail simply top a fancy brandy cocktail with chilled champagne (Wondrich 2015: 234; Craddock 1930: 577). Wondrich (2015: 234) writes that these variations on the fancy brandy cocktail date from the ‘gawdy’ period directly before prohibition. In Craddock’s (1930: 577) recipe for the Chicago Cocktail the drink features bitters, curacao and brandy, shaken with ice and strained into a glass with a lemon sugar rim, like the brandy crusta, but without the lemon spiral or twist. Although in earlier versions it is likely the twist – the distinguishing characteristic of the fancy version of the brandy cocktail – would have been present. Note also the absence of gum or sugar syrup in this recipe. Craddock (1930: 577) writes:
“Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Frost edge of glass with castor sugar and fill with Champagne.”
How is the fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail different?
The fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail or Quince Chicago Cocktail is different because it uses a seasonal vintage quince cordial thus offering a modern seasonal twist on the vintage fancy brandy cocktail recipe and it’s Chicago variation in which the cocktail is topped with champagne.
Vintage quince cordial with rose and ginger – The fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail uses homemade vintage quince cordial made with in season quinces, rose petals and ginger infused in brandy. The cordial does take some time to prepare in advance, but it is easy to make with the vintage quince cordial recipe and tips I have provided and then set aside to allow the flavours to develop which takes about 6 weeks. It is a fantastic way to preserve quinces and to make a very flavoursome liqueur that can be used in a range of different cocktails. The flavour of the finished cordial is floral and aromatic with the intensity of fresh quince, delicate rose and fresh ginger notes.
Flavour pairing to enhance the base spirit – The fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail pairs vintage quince cordial with rose and ginger with a Batch Bitters Australian orange bitters that features Australian botanicals including lemon myrtle, along with orange liqueur and agave syrup for a lower sugar cocktail, stirred with ice and topped with champagne. The tart floral flavour and aroma of quinces pairs wonderfully with citrus and especially with oranges and lemons so this combination of quince brandy with orange liqueur and bitters works well – the lemon myrtle in the bitters complements the lemon rim and twist with which the drink is garnished. The overall flavours of the drink are floral and fresh from quince, citrus, rose, ginger, orange, lemon with a boozy warm base of brandy, sweetness from orange liqueur and tart freshness from champagne.
A note on ingredients, measures, methods with help from Imbibe – I have followed the measures offered in David Wondrich’s (2015: 234) Imbibe as these are most helpfully precise compared to the original Jerry Thomas (1862) and later Harry Craddock (1930) recipes. Thomas (1862: 156-7) calls for 3-4 dashes gum syrup, 2 dashes ‘Bogart’s bitters’, 1 wineglass brandy, 1-2 dashes curacao. Craddock (1930: 577) calls for 1 dash angostura bitters, 1 dash curacao, 2/3 brandy, to be shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass with a lemon sugar frosted rim – the exact measure for the brandy is not provided. Interestingly, there is no sweetener used in Craddock’s (1930) recipe.
Following Wondrich (2015: 234) a small wine glass of brandy I have taken to be 2 oz or 2 shots, a dash of curacao ½ a teaspoon. Wondrich (2015: 231) clarifies that ‘Bogart’s bitters’ is likely a typo for Boker’s bitters which are no longer available – he recommends Fee Brothers, Angostura or Peychaud’s. I have used an Australian brand of Batch orange bitters which features lemon myrtle. The gum syrup I have swapped out for agave syrup for a lower sugar cocktail. The quince cordial also has no added sugar allowing the full quince, rose and ginger flavours to shine.
The method described by Jerry Thomas (1862: 155-8) is stirring with ice and straining into a fancy wineglass with a lemon rim. I have remained faithful to this method and stirred the cocktail with ice to mix and achieve dilution, straining into a cocktail glass prepared following Craddock’s (1930: 577) description with a lemon sugar rim, although I have used demerara sugar and added a lemon twist – both to emphasise the golden colour and sweet uplifting lemon flavour.
Presentation, experience, styling and photography – The cocktail is garnished with a lemon demerara sugar rim and lemon twist and topped with champagne served in a fancy vintage cocktail coupe engraved with a rose pattern. The demerara sugar catches the light and looks like golden jewels that set off the rim of the glass which glows with the yellow orange of the quince infused brandy. Lemon oil is an uplifting end note to the drink that complements the lemon myrtle of the orange Batch Bitters and adds a pop of yellow colour. The photographs of this fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail feature shadows with the drink emerging into the light and glowing golden against the shadows with the demerara sugar, lemon and champagne bubbles catching the light like golden jewels. The fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail or Quince Chicago cocktail looks ornate and elegant recalling a golden age of cocktails.
Fancy quince brandy champagne cocktail: Quince Chicago cocktailPrint Recipe
- 2 shots vintage quince cordial with rose and ginger
- 1 teaspoon agave syrup
- 2 dashes bitters – I used Batch orange bitters with Australian lemon myrtle
- ½ teaspoon orange liqueur
- Lemon slice, demerara sugar, lemon twist for lemon sugar rim and garnish
- Chilled champagne to top
Prepare your cocktail glass by running a slice of lemon along one section of the rim and dipping the rim in demerara sugar
Place the vintage quince cordial, agave syrup, orange bitters, orange liqueur and ice in a mixing glass and stir with a bar spoon to mix and dilute
Strain into a prepared cocktail glass
Carefully and slowly top with chilled champagne
Bend a piece of lemon zest gently over the finished drink to release the oils and pass around the rim
Gently set the lemon twist on the sugared rim of the glass
Harry Craddock (1930). The Savoy Cocktail Book. Dover: New York.
De Groff (2002). The craft of the cocktail: Everything you need to know to be a master bartender, with 500 recipes. Clarkson Potter: New York.
Jerry Thomas (1862, 2018 reprint). The Bar-tender’s Guide: Bon-vivant’s companion. Dick & Fitzgerald: New York, reprint by Thomas Majhen.
David Wondrich (2015). Imbibe. Perigree: New York.
Online fancy brandy cocktail recipes and related recipes, Chicago Cocktail
Simon Difford (2019). Fancy brandy. In Difford’s Guide.
Imbibe (2009). Chicago cocktail. In Imbibe Magazine.