Gaby des Lys

Okay, enough bizarre Baker cocktails of dubious merit. Here’s one that actually deserves a place in a bartender’s standard rotation: The Gaby des Lys. It’s named after Gaby Deslys, a dancer and actress from Marseilles; she died in 1920 at the age of 38. (You can hear her sing if you’re the sort who enjoys French singers from 1910, which, as it turns out, I am not.) According to Baker, the drink predates Prohibition. Regrettably, I don’t have that many pre-Prohibition cocktail books, so I can’t say whether this drink had been published anywhere before. Someday that’ll change…

This is one of those Baker cocktails that needs a little tweaking. His original formula is nothing to write home about:

  • 1 jigger gin (1 1/2 oz Beefeater)
  • 1/2 pony orgeat (1/2 oz Small Hand Foods)
  • 1 scant tsp absinthe (Kübler)

Shake until very cold, then strain into a Manhattan glass (I used a coupe).

To my palate, this just doesn’t taste like anything special, and it’s—wait for it—too heavy on the absinthe. But when you make it with slight modifications, the way they do at Beretta in San Francisco, it’s good enough to win numerous accolades. Here’s the modified recipe from Small Hand Foods:

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz orgeat
  • 2 dashes absinthe
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake, then strain into a cocktail glass.

Now that’s an amazing drink! With the addition of bitters, plus the modified proportions of gin and absinthe, this is truly excellent. And it’s interestingly layered, with gin up front, then orgeat, then absinthe and Angostura on the swallow. Plus the bitters make it pretty.

If only I could play around with every single one of Baker’s drinks to try and fix them up. But then I’d never finish this project, would I?

Gaby des Lys (Original): ★★★☆☆ 

Gaby des Lys (Modified): ★★★★★ 

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