There are a handful of classics that I’m very fond of and will drink at home. The Fox River Cocktail is one of them. I first found this recipe in the 1927 edition of Barflies and Cocktails. I searched a few more old books and found that the same recipe appears again and again (the only variation being between bourbon and Canadian whiskey). If you know much about the history of cocktails, you know that a consistent recipe is rare.
Because this is a drink with a solid recipe behind it, I thought it would be just as easy to find the history of its creation. No such luck. However, through my own research, I’ve found what could possibly be the birthplace of this classic libation. There is an actual Fox River that flows through northern Illinois just outside of Cook County, where Chicago is located. On the banks of the Fox River, in a little town named Valley View, there has long been a steakhouse called Al Capone’s Hideaway & Steakhouse. (I’d like to believe that it wasn’t called that during Prohibition, but I can’t confirm.) Considering that this drink appears in Prohibition-era cocktail books and that Al Capone was a notorious booze runner during that time, an establishment once owned by the infamous gangster located on the banks of the Fox River is my best guess at retracing this drink’s history.
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The drink itself is quite simple, and the procedure for making it just seems as if it was created in a speakeasy. You start by saturating a sugar cube with peach bitters. Do this by throwing the cube into the glass and dashing enough peach bitters over it to saturate it. Place one cube of ice in the glass. Measure out 2 bar spoons (equivalent to 2 teaspoons) of crème de cacao and add it to the glass along with 2 ounces of whiskey. Squeeze a lemon peel over the top and stir slightly. It is strong at first. However, once the ice melts and the sugar cube dissolves, it mellows and more flavors are exposed.
Fox River Cocktail
Serves | 1 |
- 1 sugar cube
- peach bitters
- 2 oz Elijah Craig bourbon
- 2 bar spoons Marie Brizard White Crème de Cacao
- lemon peel
| Preparation | As taken from Barflies and Cocktails: “In [an Old Fashioned glass] put 1 lump of sugar saturated with peach bitters, add 1 lump of ice, [2 oz] of bourbon whiskey and [2 bar spoons] of Crème de Cacao. Squeeze a piece of lemon peel on top and stir slightly.”
Matt Seiter is a co-founder of the United States Bartenders’ Guild’s St. Louis chapter, a member of the national board for the USBG’s MA program and a continuing educator for all desiring knowledge of the craft of mixology. He is a member of Drink Lab and is the creator of the Sanctuaria Cocktail Club.