This Cointreau Cocktail Named After Winston Churchill Packs A Punch

You might like whisky but, chances are, you don't like it as much as Winston Churchill did. The former British Prime Minister once made a Johnnie Walker oil painting, and his affinity for the dark-hued spirit inspired one of the most iconic bartenders in history to create a Scotch-based drink in his honor (and no, we aren't talking about the Churchill Manhattan, whose connection to Churchill himself is murky at best).

Joe Gilmore was working at the American Bar (ironic) at the world-famous Savoy Hotel in London, which remains the oldest cocktail bar still operating in the city. Gilmore worked there from 1940 to 1976, where, per the lore, Churchill had a personal bottle of Scotch stashed behind the bar. However, the historical timeline gets a little dodgy considering that the first recorded recipe for the Churchill cocktail was published in print in an issue of "Esquire" magazine in 1939. Either way, Gilmore supposedly created a Scotch-and-Cointreau cocktail in Churchill's honor, and in turn, Churchill gave him a cigar, which he treasured and kept until it crumbled with age.

The eponymous Churchill cocktail is a combination of equal parts Scotch whisky, Cointreau, sweet vermouth, and lime juice. To assemble, the ingredients are wet-shaken and strained into a chilled Coupe glass, garnished with an orange or lemon twist on the rim. The resulting cocktail is punchy and Scotch-forward, balanced by the bittersweet smoothness of the Cointreau and the citrusy bite of the lime juice with a formidable 23.3% ABV. 

Scotch and Cointreau for Churchill, a refined-minded epicure for the ages

For a cocktail tailor-made for a Scotch-lover, Cointreau provides the ideal counterbalance to the smoky spirit. If you've never worked with it before, Cointreau is a French orange liqueur made from a combination of bitter dried orange peels and fresh sweet orange peels, dry and loaded with bold, aromatic essential oils, the interplay of which makes for hugely dimensional drinks. It's crucial for making the Churchill cocktail dry, dark, and straightforward — although Winston Churchill himself wasn't much of a cocktail drinker.

Churchill was known to sip his Scotch as-is, and when he held dinner parties with representatives from around the world, he was known to serve champagne, not cocktails. During dinner (which lasted from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. following champagne hour), he kept a bottle of champagne beside him at the table so he would not have to call on servers for refills during the meal. A true gourmand through and through, Churchill was known to shell out for high-quality meals at hotels and restaurants, but he also had a passion for going on picnics and hosting dinners at home. As he is quoted saying in 1925, via the International Churchill Society, "My ideal of a good dinner is to discuss good food, and, after this good food has been discussed, to discuss a good topic — with myself the chief conversationalist."