The other night as I was driving home from a cold and wet Mincha/Maariv under the marquee in my shul’s parking lot, I decided that I deserved a bit of a liquid pick-me-up after such a dreary half-hour. By the time I had pulled into the driveway I had come up with the perfect choice—the Gloom Lifter.
This Irish whiskey-based cocktail comes from the pages of A.S. Crockett’s 1935 “Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book.” Crockett, one of the leading newspapermen of his day, had been a habitué of what was then New York’s most famous barroom. When Prohibition shuttered the doors of the Waldorf-Astoria bar, Crockett managed to get his hands on (and later publish) the notebook kept behind the bar in which generations of Waldorf-Astoria bartenders had recorded their recipes.
The Gloom Lifter, whose heyday was the turn of the last century, was invented as a morning cocktail.
These days, serving liquor with breakfast is seen as taboo, as popular culture suggests that it’s “indecent” to drink, particularly hard liquor, before noon. However, from colonial days until well into the 20th century, liquor was a staple of the breakfast table, and for many the liquid “eye-opener” was a regular part of one’s morning routine.
The morning drink came in many forms. While it was most often a simple shot of rum or whiskey, from the early days of the republic there were always those who required a more genteel and sophisticated morning potation. For instance, John Bernard, an English actor who toured the U.S. during the first decade of the 19th century, recorded in his book “Retrospections of America, 1797-1811” a visit to a Virginia farmer who daily “breakfasted on coffee, eggs, and hoe-cake, concluding it with... a stiff glass of mint sling [i.e., mint julep].” And by the end of the 1800s, there was a whole slew of complex mixed drinks created just for quaffing in the morning.
Morning cocktails are not as a general rule designed to be slowly sipped, but rather downed is a few brief gulps. The result can be rather invigorating. They also tend to come with a bit of useful protein in the form of raw egg, which will also act as an emulsifier, giving the drink a smooth and rich, foamy texture.
While I am sure that in the days of the old Waldorf-Astoria bar, the Gloom Lifter was rarely if ever ordered after 11 in the morning, I find it to be very enjoyable as a pre-dinner quaffer. I hope you’ll agree.
The Gloom Lifter (based on the recipe from the “Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book”):
• ¼ cup of Irish whiskey (Powers or Bushmills would be good choices)
• 2 tsp. of cognac or Israeli brandy
• 2 tbsp. of lemon juice
• 2 tbsp. of raspberry syrup (Kedem would be my recommendation)
• 1 egg white
Put all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake well for a full minute. Open the shaker, add about a cup of ice cubes. Shake for another 90 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Drink immediately.
Please use fresh lemon juice (juiced no more than a day in advance) in the above drinks. After the first day, lemon juice really starts to lose its vibrancy. Do not use bottled juice.
For those who are concerned about ingesting raw egg, please note that many supermarkets sell eggs that are pasteurized in the shell. One can also make the Gloom Lifter without adding the egg white, but the drink will lose its rich and satiny texture.
To rapidly chill a cocktail glass, simply fill it with ice water before starting to make the cocktail and pour out the water when you are ready to pour the cocktail into the glass.
Gamliel Kronemer has been writing about kosher wine, spirits and cocktails in a variety of newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years. He and his wife, Jessica, live in Silver Spring, Maryland.