Bobby Heugel's Weekly Cocktail: The Charlie Chaplin

Sloe gin is one of those products that people who overvalue the importance of spirit and liqueur knowledge reference to impress friends when ordering at a bar. You know the guy: For some reason, he always tries to get the bartender's attention by saying, "Hey, bud..." Then: "Can I get a Sloe Comfortable Screw? No wait! How about a Sloe Comfortable Screw Against the Wall Mexican-Style? Do you know how to make that?" This individual was likely "a student" who paid hundreds of dollars to attend a local bartending school that advertises on TV at 3 a.m. on Tuesdays, and this drink was almost certainly considered a "no-fail classic" by the class instructors.

Unfortunately, the only folks getting screwed in this scenario are the poor people about to drink this awful cocktail composed of artificial sloe gin, orange juice, Galliano and tequila. It's a shame that most people who have heard of sloe gin commonly think of it in this context because, when used correctly, it is absolutely delicious.

Sloe gin is a gin-based liqueur that is flavored with sloe berries, the fruit of the blackthorn bush, which is native to England. Traditionally, sloe gin is made by steeping sloe berries in gin to create a tart, deeply flavored liqueur that, when properly made, isn't overly sweet or cloying. American products commonly labeled "sloe gin" taste absolutely nothing like the cordial, and their flavors suggest that producers like Dekuyper have never even heard of the blackthorn bush.

Labeling these abominations "sloe gin" is tantamount to describing the 2.4 percent ABV Bud Select 55 as a "beer." Which, by the way, if you're drinking this product in a desperate attempt to maintain your girlish figure and catch a buzz, you'd have better luck just walking by Lola's on a Friday night and taking a deep breath. Should you survive this Fairview St. ordeal and don't find yourself in the back of some creepy rusty van, you might want to consider looking for different drinking options, such as one of the authentic sloe gins now hitting markets nationwide. Texas, which is almost always one of the last states to receive shipments of exciting new boozy items, even has the exquisite Plymouth Sloe Gin currently on area shelves.

The Charlie Chaplin

  • 1 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
  • 1 oz Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur
  • 1 oz Lime Juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

This cocktail from the 1931 cocktail manual Old Waldorf Bar Days certainly has staying power, considering that authentic sloe gin and apricot-based liqueurs have been nearly extinct in the U.S. for decades. Perhaps the persistence of this wonderful cocktail can be attributed to its namesake, Charlie Chaplin. After all, the man's last child was born when the actor was 73 years old. Either way, this is an extremely simple and delicious cocktail anyone can make at home. It isn't the booziest of drinks, but it has a wonderfully complex stone fruit flavor that complements the tart sloe quality well.

There are countless other uses for sloe gin, but keep in mind, the older the recipe, the better. Otherwise, you're likely making a cocktail based on poor artificially flavored liqueurs that have no place in decent drinks. Just remember the warning signs when you're out with friends; when your buddy offers to get a you a drink, walks up to the bar and says, "Hey, bud..." Cut him off right there, and tell him this round is on you.

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