McKinley’s Delight

A Manhattan variant that dates from William McKinley’s successful run for the White House in 1896.

Once upon a time, my knowledge of Mr McKinley extended only as far as the John Renbourn song, White House Blues. But then I went looking for Manhattan variants and found this one from his run for the presidency of the USA. The story is that McKinley’s rival, William Jennings Bryan, had a cocktail recipe linked to his campaign – the Free Silver Fizz: gin, lime and soda water – so McKinley had to have one too.

You see, back in the nineteenth century, cocktails had somewhat of a reputation as being aids to electioneering. The Balance and Colombian Repository had declared (while defining cocktail for the first time) that:

[A cocktail] is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said also, to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because, a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.

For both of these reasons, McKinley’s team (I assume) set to work to come up with their signature drink. I have images of West Wing staffers busying themselves in a campaign office, mixing and tasting furiously, trying to find a way to embody McKinley’s love of tariff reform in liquid form.

After this, all history records is that McKinley won the election, and, as far as I’m concerned, McKinley’s Delight is by far the superior drink of the two. Perhaps there’s a lesson here, and a return to candidate-endorsed drinks is the way to liven up future campaign trails?

Anyway, politicking aside, the recipe for the McKinley’s Delight is as follows:

  1. Stir 50ml whiskey, 25ml sweet vermouth, a teaspoon of maraschino and half a teaspoon of absinthe with cubed ice for sixty seconds.
  2. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  3. Garnish with a cherry.