Once in a while one has too much of a good time and needs a little pick-me-up to restore ones sparkle the next day. Many hangover cures are pretty unpalatable but this one is an excellent drink in its own right. Created by Joe Scialom at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt in 1942 – just as the forces of fascism were approaching across the Western Desert – the Suffering Bastard was designed to be a hangover cure. And let’s face it; if you were about to go head-to-head with Rommel’s Afrika Corps it had better be a damn good one! Joe was too much of a gentleman and originally called the drink The Suffering Bar-Steward but nobody was under any illusions as to what was really meant. Joe went on to have a long globe-trotting cocktail career but his best known recipe got a bit mixed up over the years and the fact that Joe made later versions called the Dying Bastard and Dead Bastard probably didn’t help. In my view the original version is the best so why not start there? If the American war machine ran on Coca-Cola and the Nazi’s were powered by apfelsaft and Fanta* the British Empire was fueled by ginger beer so it should be no surprise that it’s a key ingredient. Indeed the entire recipe seems to be based on what would be readily available at any British style hotel bar. The original recipe calls for Roses Lime Cordial but that makes the drink too sweet and it is much the better for using fresh lime juice instead. What is really unusual about the Suffering Bastard is its use of two completely different base spirits – even if there’s little agreement about which two. These days we’d call that a “split base” (and we’ll be talking about it soon) and Death & Co of New York make claim on it as their idea – or at least their specialty. But we can see that Joe S was doing it 60+ years before them. We should also note that the SB adheres quite closely to the Tiki template and is often considered part of the Tiki canon. Despite the apparent randomness of the ingredients the Suffering Bastard is an extremely invigorating and tasty tonic. But does it work as a hangover cure? Trust me; I’m a bartender.
1oz / 30ml London dry gin.
1oz / 30ml Cognac or brandy** (I go for Courvoisier VS).
0.5oz / 15ml fresh lime juice.
2 dashes of Angostura bitters (and let’s treat that as a minimum).
Shake with ice and pour, unstrained, into a DOF glass.
Add 4oz / 120ml of a good spicy ginger beer and stir in gently.
Garnish with a slice of orange and a mint sprig.
Toast Joe Scialom: international barman of mystery (c.1910-2004?).
*Cracking story BTW – and the reason I call Fanta “Nazi-Cola”.
**Bourbon is often called for but was almost certainly a later substitution. My theory is that bourbon became readily available just as pre-nazi-occupation cognac supplies dried up.