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October 17th, 2011

The Chrysanthemum Cocktail

BY Greg Buttera

Our cocktail connoisseur, Greg Buttera is back to start the week off right with a drink recipe and a bit of history on a cocktail first created by a German bartender making his way in New York back in the early 20th century.



Chrysanthemum Cocktail


2 oz Dry Vermouth

1 oz Benedictine

Absinthe to Rinse the Glass


Method: Stir

Glass: Coupe

Garnish: Lemon Twist

Ice: None

The Chrysanthemum Cocktail first appears in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks from 1916.  The recipe is also in Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930, a source often cited as the recipe’s original listing.  Several drinks generally ascribed to Harry Craddock actually appear first in Ensslin’s book.  Hugo Ensslin was a German bartender in New York City in the early 20th century.  According to a contemporary, Ensslin “worked at the 8th or 9th best bar in New York.”  In other words, he was no rock star mixologist–he toiled in relative obscurity.  In 1916, he self-published his cocktail recipe book and sold copies out of his home.  Though the book failed commercially, Ensslin had a profound influence on the mixology community: the Aviation and the Alexander (with gin–though a similar brandy-based drink called the Panama also shows up) are among the recipes first listed in Recipes for Mixed Drinks.  Other notable drinks include the Creole Cocktail and the Deshler.  Beyond his creativity, Ensslin demonstrates a tremendous grasp of cocktail theory, building drinks along fundamentally sounds lines, balancing sugar effectively with bitterness, acid, or fat, depending on the drink.

The Chrysanthemum Cocktail is anomalous in that it contains no conventional base spirit.  The Benedictine, which is 80-proof, provides an alcoholic backbone for the drink.  Herbal notes from Benedictine, dry vermouth, and absinthe integrate with honey tones and lemon essence to create a deep, nuanced flavor profile that remains light and approachable.  The Chrysanthemum is a terrific lower-alcohol cocktail for any bartender to add to their repertoire.

—Greg Buttera