Day 368 Grape Fruit Cocktail

Tonight my senses are alive with the smell, look, feel, and especially the taste of citrus. I attended the 6th annual Mad for Marmalade, Crazy for Citrus day. I’ve also heard all sorts of interesting stories about citrus fruit. I presented a workshop called ‘Citrus in 1906 Berlin Ontario’ based on the Berlin Cook Book. The participants sampled:

Thanks to the staff and garden volunteers at Waterloo Region Museum, the participants were able to see and taste a citron meIon and take home some seeds. I also turned them into my guinea pigs for tonight’s recipe Grape Fruit Cocktail contributed by the mysterious O. McK.

My first challenge in preparing the recipe for an audience was to determine the type of fruit juice. What did O. McK mean by fruit juice? I couldn’t imagine she, or perhaps he, pulling out a container of frozen fruit punch or a can of juice from the cupboard. I decided to try apple juice since apples are still in season in February and people could still get sweet cider (non alcoholic). I also bought some fresh grape fruit juice as well as some grape fruit.  Since grape fruit is in the recipe maybe that’s the intended juice? With a little research I discovered some other possibilities. On July 9, 1913 an advertisement for Schell Bros. grocers appeared in the Berlin News Record. Among the list of available goods were some listed as Very Specials including New Choice Lemons 2 for 5c, 30c per doz; Lemo or Orangeo per bottle 10 c; Lime juice per large bottle 25c; and raspberry vinegar 25 cents per bottle. I don’t have any raspberry vinegar (also known as shrub) at the moment and it is a concentrate so wasn’t an option. I’m not sure what Lemo or Orangeo contained. Was it a carbonated drink, a concentrate or a juice? Lime juice might be possible but my mouth puckered up at the thought of lime juice with grapefruit segments — quite the combination of sour flavours.

I bought small bottles of St. Remy brandy and some Canadian red wine. The brandy was an obvious choice since according to their website they’ve been around since 1886. I wasn’t sure whether to use red or white wine but other recipes in the Beverage section of the cook book mention claret. The next ingredient to consider was the sugar syrup. The beverage section does not contain a recipe. I decided to assume that this was going to be the same sugar syrup or simple syrup used by bars today to make cocktails, after all this recipe is for a cocktail. Again there were two options: a thicker syrup made by boiling 2 parts sugar and 1 part water, or a thinner syrup of 1 part sugar shaken with 1 part water until dissolved. I made the thicker syrup.

Next I had to consider the grape fruit. What sort of grape fruit was available in 1906? The contemporary newspapers seem to have oranges and lemons for sale year round but I didn’t notice grapefruit. My decision was made when only pink or red grapefruit are currently for sale in the grocery stores around me.

I have no information about O. McK.  My search of Waterloo Region Generations website turns up just five people with the first initial O and a surname starting with McK. They are all too young to have contributed this recipe — especially one containing alcohol. The temperance movement existed in Canada in 1906 with organizations like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union growing each year and providing an opportunity for many women to develop skills in political and social action. I was very surprised to see a cocktail recipe in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. There are other recipes containing alcohol but none are called a cocktail. I learned a lot about the history and production of beverage alcohol when I worked at the Seagram Museum in Waterloo. One of the temporary exhibits was a wonderful look at the history of the cocktail including all the necessary equipment. I was sure I remembered the cocktail as  a 1920s creation. I couldn’t imagine the world of the cocktail existing in Berlin Ontario in 1906. Clearly I was wrong. It was time to share my discovery with others.

I packed my supplies and made my way to Fort York Historic Site in Toronto, setting up in the block house — a good place to test an alcoholic drink! The brave workshop participants sampled four preserves and the marmalade pudding before I started mixing their drinks. It wasn’t even noon yet so I made small drinks.  I put ice in each cup and then mixed the liquids in a jar. I put a piece of grapefruit in the cup and then poured in the liquid. We started with apple juice as the fruit juice component and then switched to using grapefruit juice after the first tasters mentioned it was a very sweet tasting drink. The grapefruit cut a bit of the sweetness but I started easing back on the sugar syrup. One participant suggested using a thinner sugar syrup next time.  Overall the tasters liked the drink. The brandy and wine didn’t overpower the fruit taste but like many other fruit based cocktails O. McK.’s Grape Fruit Cocktail was quite sweet. I think this recipe has time travelled rather well and can rejoin the ranks of fruit based cocktails like the Singapore Sling and the Daiquiri in bars and homes.

Somewhere I have a copy of  the exhibit catalogue for The Art of the Cocktail from that long ago Seagram Museum show. I wonder if it mentions a Grape Fruit Cocktail?

If you too are Mad for Marmalade or Crazy for Citrus, be sure to bookmark this site  for announcements in 2014 of the the next celebration of all things citrus. It is a great event with a wonderful mix of people sharing their love of food and/or history. We had a delicious lunch and all sorts of special treats featuring lemons, limes, or oranges. There were goodie bags and door prizes, a baking/preserving competition, workshops, demonstrations, and talks and did I mention the food?  In March and April I’ll be at several more events talking about the Berlin Cook Book and some include food too! Check out my Workshops/Events/Media page above for more information.

O. McK.
Into a glass nearly full with shaved ice, put 4 tablespoons of fruit juice, 2 of sugar syrup, 2 tablespoons of brandy and 1 tablespoon of wine. Stir well for a moment, then strain off into a cocktail glass, adding a small piece of solid grape fruit pulp.

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