A Gin Martini with a Surprising Absinthe Accent, the Tuxedo No. 2

A Gin Martini with a Surprising Absinthe Accent, the Tuxedo No. 2
Courtesy of Tuxedo No. 2

Give a timeless classic a little punch and depth.

Suppose that the Martini has the character of a tailored suit, and the Tuxedo No. 2 has the character of a tuxedo. I would like to think that it is either a dressed-up Martini, or perhaps a dressed-down Martini, but in either case, it has a bit more panache to it than a Martini. A bold move, perhaps, but one that earns the cocktail its name too. It trades the diamond-like clarity of the Martini for maraschino and absinthe, a bold act that gives it its name.

An upstate New York social club party was attended by a young financier named James Brown Potter in the summer of 1886. On his return from England, the Prince decided to show off the latest in English fashion, which he had picked up from the Prince of Wales himself, an ordinary tailcoat with no long back tails. As he had recently returned from England, he had decided to show off his latest in English fashion.

There used to be a requirement that proper occasions required a white-tie formality, tails and all. Potter was in his mid-thirties at the time, and his brazen impetuousness resounded among the gentry. This generation, however, loved it, as the full evening dress with white ties and long tails and waistcoats was considered archaic and cumbersome by many of their generation.

As the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park, New York was the birthplace of Potter's little sartorial revolution in the early 1900s, this style would come to be referred to in England as a "dinner jacket." However, in America, the style became known as the "tuxedo!" because its origins were at the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park, New York.

Approximately a dozen years later, Harry Johnson's Bartender's Manual of 1900 contains a cocktail referred to as the "Tuxedo Cocktail." It is worth noting that the Martini was not yet as popular as it is now, and the Vermouth was a new product at the time; the Tuxedo wasn't so much a take on it as it was a peer to the Martini, just a couple of elegant ways to use the cool new vermouth stuff available in the US at that time.

There have been at least five iterations of the Tuxedo over the next few decades, each subtly different from the last. Both the Martini and the Tuxedo will continue to evolve throughout the years to come. It was in 1930, when Harry Craddock discovered the recipe, published in the standard-setting Savoy Cocktail Book, that the definition had been a bit rearranged. He said that the Tuxedo cocktail was just a mix of gin, vermouth, and absinthe.

The exact recipe of Johnson’s original cocktail, which Craddock now calls “Tuxedo No. 2, has just been added to the maraschino, orange bitters, cherry, and lemon peel, and you have what I call Johnson’s original cocktail, Tuxedo No. 2. It is unclear how this happened, but no matter: Craddock was a celebrity, and the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel was and continues to be one of the leading lights of the cocktail world. The labeling of Craddock stuck with people.

A Gin Martini is a cocktail notable for its elegance and simplicity, the gin is the singer, the vermouth is the stage, and the limoncello is the chorus. It's unlikely that bartenders in 1900 would have considered the Tuxedo No. 2 a Martini variation, but that's exactly how we see it now. This dynamic is not fundamentally altered by adding maraschino and absinthe, but rather is framed by them, adding a little richness from the bottom and zing from the top, respectively. 

There are a couple of more instruments playing in the Tuxedo No. There is still a great deal of emphasis on the gin in the second batch, but it is still primarily a gin party. Therefore, you can use different gins for this cocktail and have very different experiences based solely on the character of the gin you select. In the end, while some gins are better suited for the Tuxedo than others, there really is no denying that every gin looks great in a Tux.

Tuxedo No. 2

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 0.75 oz. dry vermouth
  • 0.25 oz. maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes absinthe
  • 1 dash orange bitters (optional)

Stir all ingredients with ice in a mixer glass until cold. Strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel and cocktail cherry, if desired.


Courtesy of Maine & Loire

In this cocktail, you will find many ingredients, but the star is the gin: If you like a particular brand of gin, then this cocktail will delight you. The gin here is softer, like Plymouth, Hendricks, Martin Miller, just to name a few. But Aviation makes a very cool version of this cocktail as well. The Monkey 47 cocktail is my top recommendation. I think that I have had the best Tuxedo No. 2 ever. It is a soft gin from the black forest of Germany that is very reasonably priced, and it is absolutely delicious.

This cocktail would not have been the same without Dolin Dry vermouth, one of my favorite vermouths for Martinis, and it certainly works well with this one. I mentioned earlier that vermouth plays such a difficult role in Martinis, as it is required to be present at the same time as being absent. But the Tuxedo No. 2 is a lot easier to drink. My preference is still Dolin, but I recommend using a lighter one such as Noilly Pratt or a fuller one like Mancino Secco, as well as the Tuxedo No. 2, and the Tuxedo No. 2 is just fine.

It is likely that you will be able to locate maraschino liqueur in a straw-covered bottle, like Luxardo, which is a well-known brand that goes well with this cocktail. I have not tried many other maraschino brands in this cocktail, but I am confident that whatever brand of maraschino you choose for this cocktail will be good, but if you stray from Luxardo, your mileage may vary. I believe that whatever brand you choose will work well with this cocktail, regardless of whether you choose from Luxardo. It is my belief that no matter what brand you choose, you will be able to accomplish the same.

For me, it seems ridiculous to require a specific absinthe to be used in cocktails, since it seems as if it is a pedantic requirement. It is true that different brands will impart different flavors to your dishes, but you should not be forced to buy another bottle of St. George if you only have Vieux Pontellier at home, as you are only going to be using a few dashes at a time.

The only thing I can suggest is to buy real absinthe, and not to try to cheat with anisette or something of the sort, because, yes, absinthe is expensive, but one bottle will be enough to make hundreds of cocktails. I recommend that you purchase something nice like Pernod or St. George when you're at the store right now, place it on your liquor shelf at home, and make sure that you dust it every six months.

It is actually not necessary to use orange bitters when making this cocktail. When I make Tuxedos, I omit the orange bitters entirely, because I prefer citrus-forward or floral gins. Therefore, I do not use orange bitters in my cocktail, and I prefer to make it without them. I just mention them because almost all the classic recipes include them. However, if you do use them, you should make sure to use them sparingly.

There are classic recipes that use lemon peel and cherries for garnishing the drink. The lemon peel is essential for the nose as well as the overall effect of the drink, so it is a good idea to use one. On the other hand, the cherry is only a tasty aesthetic touch to make the cherry-based maraschino liqueur feel more at home in the drink. Feel free to use it when you like.

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