Arsenic and Old Lace, Cocktail

A few months ago, I saw a recipe for Arsenic and Old Lace over on on Cocktail Virgin. I was intrigued by the Creme de Violette and pastis combination. However, I didn’t really want to spend out on a bottle of each on the off-chance that it turned out to be ming in an glass.

Arsenic and Old Lace
Arsenic and Old Lace

So, during a recent visit to Graphic, I thought I would try it out with the safety-net of professional mixologist and minimal monetary investment.

Instead of going through the pain of asking for a cocktail the barman had never heard of and then jumping through the hoops of listing ingredients, I just loaded up the page from Cocktail Virgin on my phone and handed it over. It showed the following recipe…

Arsenic and Old Lace

  • 1 1/2oz gin
  • 1/2oz pastis
  • 1/2oz creme de violette
  • 1/4oz dry vermouth

Method: mix over ice, stir, strain and serve.

There were a few raised eyebrows (especially at the quantity of pastis) and another punter took some interest, but in short-order I was presented with a strangely purply-green drink with a slight haze to it. It reminded me very much of gemstone-quality tourmaline. The gin used was Beefeater 24 again.

The barman had a little taste, declared it okay, and expressed a preference for an Aviation (that was next on my list, but needing to catch the last train of the night, I didn’t get time).

In all fairness, the gin was a little lost, but the balance between the pastis and creme de violette was spot-on. It was like the liquid after-taste of parma violets and aniseed balls long after eating them; very gentle and neither flavour dominating the other.

This was very nice to try, but I probably wouldn’t go out and buy the ingredients just to replicate this at home. If I had the ingredients in though, I would certainly make it occasionally.


4 thoughts on “Arsenic and Old Lace, Cocktail”

  1. I think part of my fondness for the drink is a bit of nostalgia. After Haus Alpenz released the Creme de Violet, we began searching for drinks (other than an Aviation) that called for it. For me, it was not the large amount of pastis that was concerning, but the large amount of CdV which can be kind of sharp. The pastis does a great job of balancing it. Creme Yvette is a lot fuller of a flavor (it falls under the Creme de Violet umbrella) and allays those sharp concerns.

    Another similar one to the A&OL is the Attention Cocktail (one version of it is on CocktailDB).

    1. Thanks for the extra info and context; I love hearing the whys and wherefores behind people’s drinking experiences.

      I spotted the Attention yesterday – I have come across a few interesting cocktails that call for orange bitters recently, I may have to get some.

      Something I struggle with is the investment needed for some of the stranger liqueurs. It can be a bit of a risk investing in something that could be awful. There must be a market for smaller bottles.

  2. Our bar was started in 2002 (some bottles were older, but it was haphazard) and began taking off in 2006. Build up slowly and realize that you can do a lot with only a few bottles (see the 12BottleBar blog as an example). Also, realize that there are many liqueurs and syrups you can make yourself, such as Allspice/Pimento Dram, if money or scale is an issue. Many spirits and liqueurs will keep especially those over 20% ABV so a 750mL bottle might last a lifetime (where as the same bottle of vermouth will last you a few weeks before its bad).

    1. Thanks for the tips. I was thinking of making a few liqueurs as the fruits of the garden mature this summer, but the 12BottleBar site is pretty inspiring. I have been eyeing up a few recipes for bitters recently too.

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