Cocktail & Other Recipes Preparation Style Up

20th Century

20th Century cocktail in a coupe glass with a lemon twist balanced on the rim
Image:

Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

Cocktails love gin. The flavorful, adaptable spirit tastes great when mixed with other spirits, citrus, liqueurs and even cream, with countless classic and modern examples proving this point. Not all gins are the same, however, and there’s wide variation from one to another in terms of botanicals and flavor profile. This gives bartenders and enthusiasts nearly unlimited options in creating gin cocktails.

Many gin classics that still dominate today’s menus sprang to life in the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Dry Martini and Tom Collins. One lesser-known drink from this era is named not for the time period in which it was born, but the train car that inspired it.

The 20th Century Cocktail features gin, Lillet blanc, white creme de cacao and lemon juice. According to William J. Tarling’s 1937 “Cafe Royal Cocktail Book,” it was created by British bartender C.A. Tuck and named for the luxurious 20th Century Limited passenger train that ran between New York City and Chicago from 1902 to 1967.

At first glance, the ingredients comprising the drink may seem strange. Gin’s dry nature and botanical flavor profile pair perfectly with Lillet blanc, a light and floral aromatized wine. But creme de cacao (a chocolate-flavored liqueur) and tart lemon juice do not scream synergy. However, something magical happens when you merge everything. The Lillet blanc softens the gin, while the creme de cacao adds a touch of sweetness that’s balanced by the lemon juice. And when you break down the recipe, it’s really just a riff on the Corpse Reviver No. 2, with the creme de cacao taking the place of the orange liqueur.

The 20th Century Cocktail has largely stayed out of the same spotlight that’s elevated other gin classics, but it has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as bartenders have rediscovered the recipe. Today, you can find the drink at bars across the world, but with four easy-to-acquire ingredients, the cocktail is a good candidate for making at home. Mix one as a nightcap, and imagine you’re on its namesake train, rumbling across the tracks in style.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces gin

  • 1/2 ounce Lillet blanc

  • 1/2 ounce white creme de cacao

  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed

  • Garnish: lemon twist

Steps

  1. Add the gin, Lillet blanc, white creme de cacao and lemon juice to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled for about 15 seconds.

  2. Fine-strain into a chilled coupe.

  3. Garnish with a lemon twist.