Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Cognac & Other Brandy Cocktails

Betsy Ross

A small, elegant, knobbed cocktail glass holds a dark, crimson drink. The glass is set against a neutral gray background.
Image: / Tim Nusog

The arrival of Presidents’ Day presents a great excuse to hoist a Betsy Ross cocktail, and if you’ve never tried one, I urge you to mix one up. It’s a darned good quaff and perfect for toasting the guys who’ve led our country since 1789, the year George Washington was elected.

Ross, the woman who supposedly sewed the first stars-and-stripes flag, knew Washington quite well, it seems—her pew at church was right next to George and Martha’s. However, the tipple named for her, as far as I can tell, didn’t appear in print until the 1940s—I found the formula in Crosby Gaige’s “Cocktail Guide and Ladies’ Companion,” published in 1941.

Port and brandy form the backbone of the concoction. Thankfully, it’s now fairly easy to find good American brandies, so if you’re going to do a little patriotic drinking, I suggest a California bottling. The same applies to the port, too, but I’m afraid we’re heading to foreign climes for the other two ingredients.

Angostura Bitters, made in Trinidad, plays an important role in the drink, and I’m a hog for the stuff—while the recipe calls for only two dashes, I usually double up on the bitters if making one for myself. Try it; you just might like it.

The final ingredient is the orange liqueur curaçao. Be careful when you’re buying the spirit, since many brands tend to be overly sweet. Recently, a new bottle landed on my doorstep—yes, yes, it was a freebie—but I was really impressed by its dryness and complexity. If you can find it, use Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao Ancienne Methode in your Betsy Ross. You’ll thank me for this.

I’ll let you get on with your celebrations, but I have a last word of advice: If you take advantage of one of the car sales that are bound to dominate our television sets this long weekend, do it before you start sipping a Betsy Ross. Otherwise you might never make it to the dealership.


  • 1 1/2 ounces brandy
  • 1 1/2 ounces ruby port
  • 1/2 ounce orange curaçao
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters


  1. Add the brandy, ruby port, orange curaçao and bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.

  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.