White Lion Cocktail

RumIn the 17th and 18th centuries, rum was largely considered a poor man’s drink. It’s reputation was not enhanced any by the inconsistent quality of products produced in the Caribbean and, later, in the northeast United States. It was the drink of pirates and sugar plantation slaves, and when the sugar trade dried up, so did the consumption of rum. But a few still knew the goodness that could be produced by distilling molasses, and today there are a plethora of beautiful rums from which to choose.

This little number comes to you courtesy the imitable Jerry Thomas, the great grandfather of all bartenders who printed his bartenders guide back in 1862. In the mid-nineteenth century, choice of rums was much more limited and the quality still far from consistent. Therefore, drinks made with rum (other than punches) were few and far between compared to gin, whiskey, and brandy. However, Thomas knew a thing or two about mixing drinks and he subtlety tweaked his recipe for the White Lion over different editions of his book, finally settling on this one.

White Lion (1887)

2 oz Santa Cruz Rum

1 tsp. Sugar (Simple Syrup)

half a Lime (¾ – 1 oz—squeeze out juice and put rind in glass)

1 tsp. Curacao

1 tsp. Raspberry Syrup

Mix well, ornament with berries in season, and cool with shaved ice

As you can see, this drink is served on ice. I suggest shaking this drink then straining into a glass filled with fresh ice: shaved, crushed, or cubed. The berries are obviously optional, but add a nice touch. Serve this drink with a couple of straws. 

Modern Santa Cruz (or St. Croix) rums tend to be on the drier side. What you want here is a rum with some age to it; definitely not a modern, dry, Cuban style. Something darker, piratey, cask strength.


The great Harry Johnson has a similar recipe in his 1888 edition. Same ingredients, but he ups the sugar and raspberry syrup significantly while reducing the lime (or lemon, your choice) to a mere couple of dashes. This drink is very sweet and needs citrus to cut all the sugar. Stick with Thomas’ recipe and adjust the proportions of sweet to sour to suite your palate.

Yo ho, ho, and a White Lion cocktail! Nah, that’s just stupid….

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