The Clover Club cocktail was the signature cocktail of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel’s Clover Club in Philadelphia. The Clover Club men’s club was in operation from the early 1880s to the beginning of prohibition in 1920. The first printing I was able to find of the Clover Club cocktail is from the 1917 book The Ideal Bartender by Tom Bullock. The recipe in that book is “Fill large bar glass 1/2 full fine Ice. 1/2 pony Raspberry syrup. 1/2 jigger dry gin. 1/2 jigger French vermouth. White of 1 egg. Shake well; strain into cocktail glass and serve.” That more or less translates to 15mls raspberry, 20mls gin, 20mls vermouth, and 30 mls egg white.
I found online that Dave Wondrich found an older printing of it from the 1909 Drinks – How to mix and serve by Paul Lowe. I did my best to look that one up but I couldn’t personally find it anywhere. I found a picture of the books cover but not the recipe and copies of it sell for around 300 clams. So I’m not buying that just to verify this short entry.
Similar to the Rose cocktail common variations of the Clover Club use grenadine or currant syrup instead of Raspberry, but Raspberry is the preferred choice. Actually no one really knows what the original Clover Club’s version of its house drink was. We just have a few old pretty good guess. The recipe I have listed is my best guess at smashing together some of the old guesses, while keeping with how other old drinks similar to the clover club were made. Another common way to make it is with 60 mls gin instead of 30 gin and 30 dry vermouth. As I get older I’m really starting to like dry vermouth more and more and slightly prefer the clover club with both, but when I was younger I hated dry vermouth and liked the straight gin one better. So really it’s up to what you prefer or have on hand, but both are valid ways to make it.
The Most Important Ingredient
Cocktails with egg whites are actually difficult cocktails to get right and anyone who says otherwise is projecting a false image. Everyone who has made a fizzes or sour with egg whites has had one of these pop open on them while shaking, only to make a mess. The best advice I can pass on to making any cocktail with egg whites is it comes down to 2 things; Technique and chemistry. A common technique that works very well is the dry shake. A dry shake is shaking all your ingredients together without ice first to make forming the foam easier. The foam will still form with ice but you will end up working twice as hard for half the result if you shake with ice first. The first shake is only about 20-30 seconds of vigorous shaking but this is the part that forms most of your foam. A little tip here is to wrap a kitchen towel around the seal of your shaker because no matter how strong you are or how tight your grip it will pop open a little. as the egg whites unfold they can expand up to 8x their original size, thus increasing the pressure inside the shaker and forcing small amounts of the sugary egg mix to squirt out. Wrapping a small towel around the shaker will catch this and keep things clean.
Next and more important is chemistry. For a cocktail with egg whites to properly foam you have to get the science right. Denaturing/unfolding egg protein into a meringue is more science than brawn and a friend of mine who is a baker once gave me this advice for how she made meringue at the bakery.
- Keep it room temperature.
- Use an acid to help break the proteins hydrogen bonds and unfold it in addition to beating it.
- Use sugar to stabilize the foam from collapsing and to form smaller bubbles.
A mistake I made for a long time is using is using eggs fresh from the fridge. Even if I’m doing a dry shake I’m still starting off with cold ingredients. So take the eggs out and let them come to room temperature first. Cold egg protein is much more stable and difficult to break apart than if it is room temperature. The next tip is to use acid. Bakers will use cream of tartar as the acid helps accelerate the denaturing process along with beating it. In the cocktail we use lemon or lime juice. Without using an acid it is much much harder to form a foam. The last bit of advice is to use sugar to stabilize the foamed protein from collapsing. A sweet liqueur alone isn’t enough. I’ve tried making cocktail with egg whites with just liqueurs for sweeter alone and they have never formed a good foam. This needs actual simple syrup. If you don’t use sugar in your cocktail what will happen is the foam will form but it will collapse back into the liquid-y cocktail just as fast and you will be left with a thin layer of lame bubbles on top. It will still taste the same and be good but that beautiful foam will be gone, and for these drinks the large foam head is the garnish. The sugar also somehow makes the water “wetter” and helps keep the suspended air inside from combining into larger bubbles. This helps form a smoother micro bubble head.
cocktail with egg whites are some of the most elegant and sublime cocktails but they are not the easiest to make. Eventually you can get to a point where you can make them correctly and consistently but it can take a while and many failed attempts. Hopefully the tips I gave help shorten that journey. Also theres a lot of tips and tricks out there for making eggs foam and I tried to keep mine reasonable and realistic, but see what works for you. I’ve been doing this for a long time and still I have the occasional one that doesn’t foam up well, even though I make them all the exact same. Its just the nature of the egg sometimes and I just accept it and make it again.