The Big City Origins Of The Classic Stinger Cocktail

Quick, think of the cocktail that most embodies New York City. Your mind probably went immediately to a Manhattan. Named after NYC's central island, this stirred blend of rye whiskey, vermouth, and bitters has murky origins. Taste Cocktails offers three versions of the invention: one at the Manhattan Club, another at the Hoffman House, and still another at a roaring party attended by Winston Churchill's mother. Which one is closest to the truth is likely unknowable, but all three peg the date somewhere around the close of the 19th century, so Manhattanites and others have been enjoying the tipple for well over 100 years.

But a Manhattan is certainly not the only drink linked with the Big Apple. TimeOut New York tallies the list of classic cocktails that include the Martini, the Cosmopolitan, and the Red Snapper, aka Bloody Mary. It's no surprise that a city that encompasses five boroughs and has had a population exceeding 1,000,000 people since the late 1800s – per the New York City Department of City Planning – would be home to more than a few taverns, pubs, and lounges mixing up a mass of signature slings for a welcoming hometown clientele. And, since that clientele was often well-heeled and well-traveled, it's also no surprise that those cocktails didn't stay a New York secret for long.

One NYC cocktail, the Stinger, has long-lingered in volumes of bartending manuals before falling out of favor with the average drinker for many years. However, it is enjoying a bit of a renaissance.

Everything old is new again

The Stinger is a punchy name for a cocktail that is blissfully simple, yet potent. At its most minimal, Punch points out, a Stinger combines Cognac and creme de menthe. They are shaken and strained into a cocktail glass with a twist of lemon peel. They go on to map out how the drink morphed into different permutations as it bounced around the bars and clubs of New York. At the Holland House Hotel, a dash of Angostura bitters was added and it was called The Brandt. Cognac was swapped out for rye whiskey and orange bitters for Angostura at the Waldorf-Astoria where it was known as The Prince. And, at the tony townhouse of Reginald Vanderbilt, a dash of absinthe helped round out the sting – and it gained its lasting moniker.

Possibly because of the connection with the deeply-wealthy and well-connected Vanderbilt clan, Stingers were for many years considered a libation enjoyed by – and possibly reserved for – high society, says Chilled Magazine. It even found its way to the silver screen. Cary Grant knocks back a few in "Kiss Them for Me" and Bing Crosby pontificates on the origin of the name Stinger in a film aptly titled "High Society."