Graham Greene’s Cocktail Breaks Rules, Is Pretty Great for Summer

Last week, Luke Honey wrote a post for The Dabbler about the Graham Greene Cocktail, a drink invented in a Hanoi hotel when Greene was a correspondent for Paris Match. According to Honey the drink officially came into this world in 1951, and I’ve seen elsewhere that the drink was concocted around the time Greene was writing The Quiet American. It was, by all accounts, his drink of choice, and the result has been deemed both “heinous” and “surprisingly good.” Apparently no one likes the idea of having a blackberry-flavored martini, and some remain unconvinced. A drink with that range of reaction appeals to the side of me that once mixed together all the liquids in the fridge and dared myself to chug. Here is the recipe as Honey puts it:

–       A dash of Crème de Cassis (blackberry liqueur, for the unfamiliar)

–       A dash of Noilly Pratt (dry vermouth)

–       A “slug” of dry London gin

Elsewhere the portions are more precise for the clueless—one half ounce of vermouth, two ounces gin, and a vague sprinkle of Cassis. Gary Regan, the commentator that condemned this original recipe and also the author of The Joy of Mixology, makes a good point: change up the proportions if it doesn’t sound appetizing. He calls for more vermouth, more Cassis, and less gin, with a lemon twist to top it off. Sounds tasty. But I’ve never been one for exact recipes. Mine was sloppy, quite frankly. My preparation included eyeballing a finger of Cassis in a tall pitcher with lots of ice, pouring two fingers of vermouth in, and then topping it off with as much gin as I could stomach (which isn’t that much, if we’re being honest friends here). I stirred, swirled, etc., and I strained the mixture into a glass more suited to a martini, however far afield we were from that notion at that point. I found it refreshing, striking, maybe too boozy, my fault entirely. My thoughts drifted to the possibility of being a foreign correspondent drinking in a hotel. What did Greene write about for Paris Match again? What stories did he have time to file when all he was doing was drinking in the hotel bar? I would basically do nothing ever again if I were drinking this all the time, which makes the Graham Greene a viable candidate for those summer nights when even your air conditioner won’t save you.

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  1. Tried this cocktail havig seen it mentioned by Rick Stein in one of his programmes. Personally – I like it – although the proportions I use vary a bit! Just one small point – crème de cassis is blackcurrant flavour, not blackberry – that would be crème de mures

  2. Thanks for the mention. Like everyone else, I thought this sounded pretty dodgy, but having made it, I decided it was actually rather good- especially if one was sitting around at some bar in the Tropics, or the South of France.  As you say, suprisingly refreshing.

    Kind regards

    Luke H