Although the Turf Club is known as a Martini variation, it predates that classic cocktail. And like most cocktails from that era, the Turk Club‘s origins are murky, with a history that can be traced back to the 1870s. The first printed recipe, published in 1884, consisted of Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, and bitters, which made it nearly identical to the Martinez. And a 1891 version called for genever. At the turn of the century, the barkeep Harry Johnson immortalized the recipe as we know it today in his “Bartender’s Manual” with the following ingredients: gin, dry vermouth, absinthe, maraschino liqueur, and orange bitters.
The small quantities of absinthe and maraschino liqueur lend complexity but don’t overwhelm the drink’s crispness. Its flavor profile is sharper and more dry than its similar-on-paper sibling, the Tuxedo No. 2. As originally published in Johnson’s book, the two drinks were close to identical; in their resurrected modern incarnations, the two have evolved in slightly different ways. While employing similar ingredients, the most popular contemporary version of the Tuxedo No. 2 is rounder and slightly sweeter, due to the different styles of gin and vermouth required.
The Turf Club has even earned a spot on the Martini menu alongside the Perfect Martini and other variations at the legendary Gage & Tollner in Brooklyn, where the iteration hews fairly closely to the version adapted from the “Bartender’s Manual” recipe that was published in Frank Caiafa’s “The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book” and appears below.
You could book a seat at Gage & Tollner, or you could stir this version yourself at home. Johnson relied on Plymouth gin for his recipe, but if you don’t have this on hand, any good London Dry gin will also do. Maraschino liqueur, a key player in many classics like the Aviation and the Last Word, contributes subtle notes of Marasca cherries and almonds that make this variation one-of-a-kind. Lastly, dashes of absinthe and orange bitters sharpen the drink without overpowering it.
One sip, and even classic Dry Martini evangelists might consider upending their cocktail loyalty.
- 2 ounces gin (Plymouth or London Dry)
- 3/4 ounces dry vermouth
- 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
- 2 dashes absinthe
- 2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
- Garnish: lemon twist
Add the gin, dry vermouth, maraschino, absinthe and bitters into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.