Adonis is simple to make and offers a rewarding experience. Once a popular and sophisticated drink, it has now fallen out the mainstream but any competent bartender will have the ingredients to mix one for you to evoke days gone by.
An advantage of this drink is that not only does it taste good, but it is much lower in alcohol than most.
- 2 parts Dry Sherry (say 2 ounces or 60ml)
- 1 part sweet Italian vermouth (say 1 ounce or 30ml)
- 1 (or 2) dashes of orange bitter
Fill a mixing glass with cracked ice and add all the ingredients. Stir well and then strain into a martini glass. Optional, garnish with a twist of orange peel.
The Adonis appeared around about the late 1800’s and it probably was named after a long running play of the same name which was in the news becuase it was the the first play to reach five hundred performances on Broadway.
A similar cocktail is Bamboo which was invented in the Grand Hotel in Yokohama, Japan. This version was made less sweet by using dry French vermouth and with a ratio of three parts sherry to one part vermouth.
It seems that this recipe came about when Louis Eppinger, a German who'd been working as a barman in San Francisco, took up the post of manager of the Grand Hotel in 1889. Eppinger's use of French vermouth coincided with them being widely exported for the first time and perhaps, wanting to find a use for this new drink, he decided to adapt the Adonis he remembered mixing back in California.
So the American Adonis was taken to Japan where it was changed slightly to become the Bamboo. But that wasn't the end, because the popularity of the Bamboo with American travellers to Japan resulted in them asking for it on their return home.
And here the recipe was once again adapted so that now the American version of the Bamboo contains equal measures of French Vermouth and dry Sherry.
So feel free to take the three ingredients, sherry, vermouth and orange bitters and experiment!
Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.