The Beauty Spot Cocktail
The Beauty Spot is one of those cocktails so named that it begs to be tried. But which one? There are two distinct cocktails out there with the same name. They both contain gin. They both contain grenadine. That is were the similarities cease. We are looking at two completely different drinks. So is the name a coincidence, or is one a variation of the other?
The most commonly found version consists of gin, sweet and dry vermouth, orange juice, and a dash of grenadine (the spot?). One source states that it can be found in Jacques Straub’s Drinks from 1914. I do not own a copy of this book. This particular tome is currently going for over $200 a copy, so I doubt I will see a copy anytime soon. However, I do not doubt the reference. Why would anyone want to make something like that up?
The recipe is as follows:
Straub’s Beauty Spot
1 dash Grenadine
1 oz Gin
½ oz Sweet Vermouth
½ oz Dry Vermouth
¼ oz Orange Juice
Shake with ice then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
So, what we are looking at, here, is a Bronx Cocktail with a dash of grenadine. Three years later, Hugo Ensslin inked his version of a Beauty Spot cocktail in his Recipes for Mixed Drinks. Gone were both vermouths and the orange juice, and the grenadine went from a dash to one-third of the cocktail.
Ensslin’s Beauty Spot
2 oz Gin
1 oz Grenadine
1 egg white (½ of an egg white)
Vigorously dry shake the ingredients to emulsify the egg white , then add ice and shake normally. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
This is a very different cocktail. So much so that it is hard to believe that Ensslin’s is simply a variation of Straub’s. We also do not know if Straub invented the drink. Probably not. Straub was the wine steward and club manager for the Pendennis Club in Louisville before moving to Chicago to head the wine department at the Blackstone Hotel. While he was noted as an expert on wine and liqueur production, he was also a teetotaler, so I do not see him behind the bar inventing drinks.
I can find almost nothing on Hugo Ensslin. According to David Wondrich, Ensslin was a nobody working in a second rate hotel in New York who self-published a book that influenced almost every published bartender that came after him. What he lacked in public recognition, he made up for in creating recipes worth stealing.
Both these cocktails seemed to fall off the radar shortly after their debut in print. They do not show up in Robert Vermeire’s Cocktail: How to Mix Them (1922), Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book (1935), or The Artistry of Mixing Drinks by Frank Meir (1936). However, Ensslin’s version does show up in a seldom referred-to little tome called Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide which was a promotional book for Old Mr. Boston spirits and nectars—flavored liqueurs with less sugar and of a higher proof than cordials. Since the recipe did not contain any of the promoted nectars, it must have been included because someone was still drinking it.
As simple as it is, I prefer Hugo Ensslin’s Beauty Spot Cocktail. The other is simply a Bronx Cocktail with a dash of grenadine which you can’t taste anyway. Ensslin’s doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is: gin, a sweetener, and egg to tie it together. Give it a try. Sometimes it’s the simple things….