The Sheba Cocktail

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Betty Blythe as the Queen of Sheba (1921)

Betty Blythe had twenty-eight costumes when she played the Queen of Sheba for Fox in 1921. All of them together, she said, could fit in a shoe box. While she glided across the silver screen, usually in a state of near nakedness, her character’s name became synonymous for a woman with sex appeal, just as “Sheik” was for a man. Before there was the “It” girl, there was the “Sheba”.

This cocktail is based on the Hoop La!, found in Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930). The original called for equal parts of all ingredients. However, I decided to play around with the proportions to cut back on the sour and give the brandy some more breathing room. Cocchi Americano replaces the Kina Lillet in the original recipe. Kina Lillet is no longer available and Cocchi Americano has become the accepted substitute. It adds a complexity and spice that the modern Lillet Blanc could not do.


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Betty Blythe

1 ½ oz Brandy

¾ oz Cocchi Americano

¼ oz Cointreau

1 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice

Stir with ice until cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an expressed lemon peel.

This cocktail is not intended to be a “sour.” The lemon juice is there to help balance the Cointreau’s sweetness and as a counterpoint to the spiciness of the Cocchi Americano

Unfortunately, “Queen of Sheba” has suffered the same fate as many a silent film. Only 17 seconds of the film survive; and a disappointing 17 seconds it is. Oh, well, imagination will just have to replace the lost footage. So all you Sheiks and Shebas ankle over to the bar and fix yourself a Sheba cocktail.

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