Rosy Dawn Cocktail

The longer the yarn that accompanies a Charles H. Baker, Jr., cocktail, the nearer and dearer it was to his heart. And the page-and-a-half tale that accompanies the Rosy Dawn cocktail is actually quite sweet—it’s a pity that I can’t simply reproduce it here, as an example of just how charming Baker’s purple prose can be. I’ll summarize the story, though, starting with this part:

[A]fter many Rosy Dawns, [the wife of the editor of the Hongkong Telegraph] got so sentimental about our recent fiancée that she said as long as she couldn’t attend the wedding in person she would like to see us married somehow.

So on the spot, aboard a ship, they staged a raucous faux wedding ceremony. After a long night,

as we came finally up the spidery forward gangway the first fingers of a Rosy Dawn searched up and over the stark mountains surrounding Hongkong’s superb harbor, and painted the hull of the MARIPOSA a maiden blush tint where she lay just to the eastward of our own berth.

Awww, cute. I love it when a cocktail book gets all sentimental.

Baker gives two formulas for the Rosy Dawn—I made the drier version:

Rosy Dawn (Original)

  • 1 liqueur glass dry gin
  • 1 liqueur glass orange curaçao
  • 1 liqueur glass cherry brandy
  • 1 tsp Rose’s lime juice or lime syrup

Add all ingredients to a large champagne glass filled with cracked ice, stir, and top with seltzer water.

Rosy Dawn (Dry)

  • 1 liqueur glass dry gin (1 oz Beefeater)
  • 1 pony cognac (1 oz Park Borderies Single Vineyard)
  • 1/2 liqueur glass orange curaçao (1/2 oz Cointreau)
  • 1/2 liqueur glass cherry brandy (1/2 oz Cherry Heering)
  • 1 tsp Rose’s lime juice or lime syrup (Rose’s)

Add all ingredients to a large champagne glass filled with cracked ice, stir, and top with seltzer water. (I stirred in a mixing glass with ice, then strained into a champagne glass filled with fresh ice.)

I was infuriated by the references to “liqueur glasses” when, after much Googling, I learned that a liqueur glass is equal to 30 milliliters, which is approximately 1 ounce. Why not just say “1 pony”?

Anyhow: Baker usually refers to “kirschwasser” rather than “cherry brandy,” so I thought he might be looking for a liqueur such as Cherry Heering in this drink. That made particular sense when I considered the drink’s name: Cherry Heering would lend the drink a lovely pink color, while kirschwasser is clear. However, the combination of Cherry Heering and Cointreau made for an unpleasantly medicinal drink.

I tried again, replacing the Cherry Heering with kirschwasser and adding 1 tsp of grenadine for color. This was an improvement, but it was still too damned sweet.

Against my better judgment, I gave the drink one more chance, with further modifications:

  • 1 oz gin (Beefeater)
  • 1 oz cognac (Park Borderies Single Vineyard)
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz kirschwasser (Aqua Perfecta Kirsch Eau-de-Vie)
  • 1/4 oz lime juice
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice, then strain into a large champagne flute filled with cracked ice. Top with club soda.

This still wasn’t stellar, but it was definitely the best of the bunch. As I’d hoped, the Peychaud’s added a nice rosy touch without any unwarranted sweetness.

The lesson of this drink—one I’ll be learning over and over again as I work through this project—is that Baker’s affection for a drink often has more to do with its place in his life than with its actual quality. In that respect, The Gentleman’s Companion is probably one of the most personal cocktail books that’s ever been published.

Rosy Dawn (Dry): ★★☆☆☆ 

Rosy Dawn (Revised No. I): ★★★☆☆ 

Rosy Dawn (Revised No. II): ★★★☆☆ 

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