Although the origins of the Martini are largely unknown, historians have pointed to the Turf Club as one of the earlier cocktails to combine gin and vermouth. The first printed recipe, published in 1884 in George Winter’s How to Mix Drinks, consisted of Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, and bitters, which made it similar to the Martinez. At the turn of the century, the barkeep Harry Johnson published a recipe that hews more closely to a modern-day Turf Club in the second edition of his Bartenders’ Manual. Simply called the Turf Cocktail, it included equal parts Plymouth gin and dry vermouth, along with absinthe, maraschino liqueur, and orange bitters.
Today, as with many Martini variations, the Turf Club has evolved into a slightly drier cocktail with a higher ratio of gin to vermouth. Although some versions still call for Plymouth gin, it can also be made with a crisper, more juniper-forward London Dry.
The Turf Club’s flavor profile is typically 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 developed in slightly different ways. The Tuxedo No. 2 is generally rounder and slightly sweeter, particularly when made with Plymouth gin and blanc vermouth, although recipes and bar specifications may vary. In both cocktails, maraschino liqueur contributes subtle notes of marasca cherries and almonds, while dashes of absinthe and orange bitters add sharpness.
The Turf Club recipe below comes from Frank Caiafa’s The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book.
- 2 ounces gin (Plymouth or London Dry)
- 3/4 ounce 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.
What’s the Best Gin for a Turf Club?
Harry Johnson’s original Turf Club recipe called for Plymouth gin, which still has a juniper backbone but is often described as softer, earthier, and more citrus-forward than a London Dry gin. However, many modern Turf Clubs use a crisper and more juniper-forward London Dry. Either will work in this recipe, but Plymouth gin will produce a slightly softer drink.
What’s the Difference Between a Turf Club and a Tuxedo No. 2?
Both the Turf Club and the Tuxedo No. 2 are Martini variations that feature maraschino liqueur, absinthe, and orange bitters. They appeared as the Turf Cocktail and the Tuxedo Cocktail in the 1900 edition of Harry Johnson’s Bartenders’ Manual, in which the primary difference was the gin used (Plymouth for a Turf Club and sweeter Old Tom for a Tuxedo No. 2). However, both drinks have evolved over the years; generally, the Tuxedo No. 2 has a rounder and slightly sweeter profile, due to the inclusion of Plymouth gin and blanc vermouth (although recipes will vary). The Turf Club can be made with either Plymouth or London Dry gin, and typically calls for dry vermouth, producing a slightly drier and sharper drink.