The Stinger is a pre-Prohibition drink composed simply of cognac and white crème de menthe. The odd couple is quite a pair, producing a cocktail that’s sweet, strong, minty and refreshing—the ideal interplay for an after-dinner nightcap.
The exact origins of the Stinger are murky, but it appeared in print at least as far back as 1914, when Jacques Straub included it in his book “Drinks.” In the book “Imbibe!,” drinks historian and author David Wondrich reports that the Stinger is most famously associated with Reginald Vanderbilt—yes, of the Vanderbilts. A 1923 Ohio newspaper article even credited him with the invention, noting that he was fond of serving them to guests at his home beginning two decades prior. So, it seems we can thank ol’ Reggie for giving us this classic.
Vanderbilt’s taste for the Stinger solidified its high-society bonafides, and for decades the drink was associated with the upper class. It even appeared in the 1956 movie “High Society” starring Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, and James Bond drinks one in the 1956 novel “Diamonds Are Forever.” The Stinger remained popular in the United States, inside and outside of pop culture, until about the 1970s when it fell out of favor.
Stinger recipes vary in proportion, with some drinkers preferring a drier version made with less crème de menthe. Stinger recipes also typically call for the drink to be shaken, an anomaly for cocktails comprising all spirits. This recipe hews classic, in proportion and technique, stirring two parts cognac with one part crème de menthe before straining it into a rocks glass. Serve the drink over crushed ice for an extra dose of refreshment, and you will render the perfect digestif.
2 ounces cognac
1 ounce white creme de menthe
Add the cognac and white crème de menthe into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass over crushed ice.