Back Pocket Cocktails: Gabe Parker's Pegu Club

By Gabriel Parker


Shaken-- Double Strained-- Coupe/Expressed Lemon Swatch

2 oz Bombay Sapphire gin

.5 oz Combier orange

.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

.25 oz Bols triple sec

3 dashes orange bitters (Reagans)

Dash (1-2) Angostura bitters

In my role as a bartender I am often faced with the challenge of coming up with something special for a guest.  While we put considerable effort into creating a varied seasonal cocktail list that will accommodate most tastes, there are always those who just want something different.  To that end comes the concept of the “back pocket drink”.  

A back pocket drink is one that a bartender knows, likes, and has at his disposal to create when the situation dictates.  One of my back pocket drinks is the PEGU CLUB COCKTAIL.  Key words that might lead me to pull this drink out would be: gin based, tart, refreshing, not too sweet...

This drink was the signature cocktail of the club of the same name, which was a British club for expats (read: imperialist occupiers) in Rangoon, Burma.  Essentially, the imperialist occupiers needed a place like home in their newly conquered land, and also a place to socialize and drink where the strangely unhappy oppressed native people wouldn’t ruin the party.  The Pegu Club was that place and was open for business in 1882.

The first known publication of the recipe for the Pegu Club Cocktail comes from Harry MacElhone’s Barflies and Cocktails (1927).  As is the case with most drink recipes that have been around for a hundred years or so, there are many adulterations of the original recipe. 

There will be argument about what gin to use, how much lime juice (and whether to use Rose’s sweetened lime instead of fresh squeezed), how many dashes of bitters, what type of orange spirit to use, and whether the appropriate garnish is a lime twist, lime wedge, grapefruit peel…  The answer to all the questions is play around and let your own palate guide you.  I have the luxury of a wonderful selection of spirits at Barlow and can make hundreds of different versions of this one drink by changing this or that.  We can also always adjust a recipe for a specific guest's needs. 

I like this variation because it's dry, not too botanical, not too pricey, and is a real crowd pleaser.   Admittedly, I go a bit heavy on the bitters in my recipe because to my palate the drink is more focused with the additional bitters. Make the version you like and enjoy this historic cocktail.