We recently looked at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail and this libation has a similar history. The Pegu Club was the favourite hang-out of pre-war British colonialists in what was then Burma and is now Myanmar. This prestigious edifice near the then capital of Rangoon (now called Yangon and no longer the capital) was where the likes of George Orwell went for a bracing Pegu Club house cocktail as a relief from the tropical heat and a bit of a break from oppressing the locals. George later regretted and atoned for his part as an imperialist police officer by fighting against fascism in the Spanish Civil War (there was nothing civil about it) so we’ll let him off the hook. The first written mention of the Pegu Club cocktail is in legendary Scottish bartender Harry McElhones 1922 Barflies and Cocktails and is also encoded in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book with a footnote stating that it was extremely popular at that time. An endorsement by two of the greatest cocktail barmen of all time has made it an enduring classic. The original recipe – 2oz gin, 1oz curacao, a teaspoon of lime juice and a dash each of orange and Angostura bitters shaken and served up – has evolved considerably over the years and modern versions tend to use a lot more lime juice. These modern versions make for a very approachable cocktail but once in a while I’ll make one to the original formula; it really is a completely different beast. The version below is my own preferred modern style specification but other variations certainly abound and you could tinker with it until you find it to your own liking. Many spec’s call for both orange and Angostura bitters but with the orange flavour already present I prefer to double down on the Ango. I also find the aroma of a kaffir lime leaf to add a lot to the experience. You can buy a bag of these frozen delights from any Thai shop and keep them in your freezer until needed.
1.5oz / 45ml dry gin.
1oz / 30ml orange liqueur*.
0.75oz / 22.5ml fresh lime juice.
1 tsp / 5ml of 1:1 simple syrup (adjust to taste*).
2 dashes of Angostura bitters.
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé.
Garnish with lime, grapefruit peel or a kaffir lime leaf.
Toast George Orwell (1903 – 1950).
*I like Pierre Ferrand in this but Cointreau, curaçao (non-blue) or triple sec are all viable options. Adjust for the sweetness of the liqueur by adding or subtracting from the syrup component.