The Lion’s Tail first appeared in “The Café Royal Cocktail Book,” which was published in 1937. But it’s likely the drink was born during Prohibition, when onerous laws couldn’t keep thirsty denizens from partaking in illicit concoctions. The book was published in London, but many believe the cocktail was created by an American. Their reasoning: The drink’s name refers to the saying “twisting the lion’s tail,” a phrase that describes provoking the British, whose royal coat of arms features a lion.
Featuring bourbon, allspice dram (a liqueur made with rum, pimento berries and spices), fresh lime juice, simple syrup and aromatic bitters, the Lion’s Tail is an unusual drink that nearly slides into Tiki territory. But for all its talent and charm, the cocktail was forgotten for decades, resurfacing in the late-aughts thanks to the timely confluence of literature and product availability.
Allspice dram lost favor after the mid-century Tiki boom and then disappeared from circulation altogether in the 1980s. That changed when St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram arrived stateside in 2008. This Austrian-made liqueur hit the market one year before the release of Ted Haigh’s “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails,” an important tome that heralded the return of many obscure and buried drinks, including the Lion’s Tail.
Once bartenders had a recipe and the missing ingredient to work with, Lion’s Tails began popping up at bars all over the country. It’s easy to see why: The drink is rich, spicy and aromatic and appeals to fans of both the Daiquiri and the Whiskey Sour. It leans heavily on the allspice and Angostura bitters without overpowering the bourbon, the lime adds a hint of tartness, and the simple syrup lends balance. This is one Lion’s Tail you’ll want to twist time and time again.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1/2 ounce allspice dram
- 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 barspoon simple syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Garnish: orange twist
Add the bourbon, allspice dram, lime juice, simple syrup and bitters into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass.
Lightly express the oil from an orange twist over the top of the drink, and discard the twist.