It seems as though every bar program in Baltimore touts a classic cocktail menu these days.
The trend isn't surprising if you note the revival of early 20th century across popular culture (read: "Downton Abbey," "Boardwalk Empire," the upcoming "Gatsby" remake — even "Mad Men"). But what every menu does not offer is the mysterious, yet often forgotten classic: the Pegu Club.
This cocktail is the stuff of legend — spanning more than 100 hundred years, several continents and even questionable behavior. And thanks to Frederick's on Fleet in Canton, you have the chance to experience the same. Sure, this drink is older than your great-grandparents, but the combination of ingredients is still edgy and alluring.
Owners Jim Saufley and Eric Butterfield have created a bar program that is a combination of vintage favorites and Saufley's modern inventions. Butterfield, who also serves as head chef, explains that most of the vintage drinks are Saufley's "take on old favorites." Saufley, a former bartender on the Baltimore circuit for almost two decades, smartly notes the year and origin of each of the six classics on the menu. Most will be familiar to cocktail connoisseurs, but the "1922, Burma" that follows the Pegu Club practically begs for an explanation.
The Pegu Club was a popular gentleman's club in British colonial Burma during the late 19th century that catered to foreign government officials and businessman. The Pegu, named after a river in the country, became the club's signature drink. In London in the 1930s, the recipe showed up in what many consider to be the original cocktail menu: Henry Craddock's rather infamous "The Savoy Cocktail Book." Most recently, the cocktail has seen a resurgence thanks to Manhattan's Pegu Club bar, in its own right a cocktail Mecca for willing disciples.
The Pegu Club is a very accessible cocktail: If you're a gin lover, add this into your drink rotation. A gin hater? Try it — you'll be pleasantly surprised. Yes, this is a strong drink, smell-it-and-you're-drunk strong. Think Gin Margarita. The key is in the orange curacao, which mutes the strong bite from the Tanqueray base with a smooth, orange flavor (and gives the drink its wonderful color). An equal portion of lime juice brings out the citrus notes of the curacao while balancing the sweetness. Finally, two different types of bitters — Angostura and orange — give the drink a complex finish is a tad woodsy and a touch sour on the palate.
Frederick's, itself housed in a building that dates back more than 100 hundred years, adds its own retro glamour to the Pegu. Outside, a sleek pair of bright red, double doors invites patrons in; once there, vintage boxing photos, low-lights, and an elaborately carved cherry bar set the mood. Like the Pegu, Frederick's is distinct, yet simple.
Llike Frederick's, The Pegu is good enough to get lost in time with.
How to Make the Pegu Club
2 oz. London dry gin (Tanqueray)
3/4 oz. orange curacao
3/4 oz. lime juice
Dash Angostura bitters
Dash orange bitters
Shake well with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Where to Get The Pegu Club
Frederick's on Fleet
2112 Fleet St., Canton
$8.50Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun