So many classic cocktails are born in the bars of great hotels. The Singapore Sling hails from the famed Raffles Hotel in Singapore, while the Vieux Carré was first stirred at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. The list goes on, and it includes the Suffering Bastard, which was originally conceived as a hangover cure by the bar staff at Cairo’s Shepheard’s Hotel before the property burned to the ground in 1952.
As the story goes, in 1942, Shepheard’s barkeep Joe Scialom was toying with a hangover remedy for troops during World War II. He settled on the Suffering Bastard, smartly employing two liquors with lime juice, aromatic bitters and the stomach-settling powers of ginger beer. The drink was supposedly so popular with its intended audience that troops telegrammed the hotel asking for bulk orders of this liquid fortification to be made and delivered to the front lines. Such a move puts your making this at home and drinking it on your couch in perspective.
Today, the common recipe calls for bourbon and gin, though some reports peg the original as containing brandy instead of bourbon. Both spirits make excellent versions of the drink, but this recipe sticks with whiskey. If you can’t find ginger beer, ginger ale also works. The resulting cocktail won’t be quite as spicy, but it will still contain a thirst-quenching, effervescent quality.
Interestingly, the Suffering Bastard took a left turn in the 1960s, when it became associated with Tiki culture. Recipes of the period, including one by Trader Vic, began to feature rums as the base spirits, accented by orgeat and curaçao liqueur. But if you want to make the original recipe, skip the rum.
Whichever route you go, this cocktail has stuck around for a reason: It will take away your suffering (although too many of these bastards has been known to increase it). To adjust the drink’s potency—or get a jump on tomorrow’s hangover—simply increase or decrease the amount of ginger beer. Then raise a glass to the troops who enjoyed this elixir—along with the man who created it—and knock one back.
- 1 ounce bourbon
- 1 ounce London dry gin
- 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Ginger beer, to top
- Garnish: mint sprig
Add the bourbon, gin, lime juice and bitters into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled (about 30 seconds).
Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice.
Top with the ginger beer.
Garnish with a mint sprig.