A Franco-American Cocktail: The Lafayette


Lafayette Escadrille cropped

I discovered the Lafayette cocktail while searching for something else, I forget what, but the name caught my fancy. As with so many cocktails, there is no consensus as to the origin of the name; perhaps the Marquis de Lafayette of Revolutionary War fame or the Lafayette Escadrille, the American flying squadron serving in France in WW I. The ingredient list includes both American and French products so either attribution is plausible. The truth is more likely that it was named for a park across the street from a hotel somewhere in the Midwest.  

2 oz Rye Whiskey

½ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Dubonnet Rouge

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

I really wanted to like this cocktail but, in the end, I didn’t.  I’m not entirely sure why.  I like rye.  I like Vermouth. I like Manhattans.  This is basically a “perfect” Manhattan where half of the sweet vermouth is replaced with dry vermouth.  In this case, the sweet vermouth is replaced with Dubonnet, which is nearly the same thing.  

Aside: a “perfect” cocktail is one with both sweet and dry vermouth, usually in equal measures.

The accepted philosophy is dry vermouth does not mix with whiskey and sweet vermouth does not mix well with gin.  The latter I know to be untrue.  I’ve had “perfect” cocktails with gin and they were fine.  The Baron Cocktail I found particularly tasty.  In this case, however, they might be right.  I tried adding addition Dubonnet until I found the drink palatable at which point I had turned it into a Manhattan. I must say that a Manhattan made with Dubonnet is quite good.  Having no other dry vermouth in the house besides the Noilly Prat I had originally used, I could not try switching it for another.  I briefly thought of using Lillet Blanc to add some additional sweetness, but decided not to risk opening a new bottle for an experiment.  

The revolutionary Marquis’s star fell during the French Revolution and the Escadrille was disbanded when the U.S. entered the war.  I might try it again sometime, but perhaps this cocktail is just not meant to be.

Aside: Apparently there is another drink called the Lafayette (Louisiana) which is nothing more a Hurricane made with dark rum.