History Of The Japanese Cocktail.
Jerry Thomas invented the Japanese Cocktail in 1860 to commemorate the first Japanese diplomatic visit to the United States. Despite earlier limited trading with the dutch, Japan first officially opened its boards to outsiders in 1854 after Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States Navy docked his fleet at Edo Bay (Tokyo Bay today) and pointed all their canons at the town. The United States had assigned Townsend Harris as Consul General to Japan, and by 1858, he was able to draft a trade agreement with Japan. In 1860 the first ambassadors of Japan came to the United States. The first three ambassadors were Masaoki Shinmi, Norimasa Muragaki, and Tadamasa Oguri. During their tour of the US, the three men visited many of the major cities, and their stop in New York prompted the famous bartender Jerry Thomas to make this drink. Jerry Thomas combined orgeat for its nutty cherry flavor, Boker’s cardamom bitters for its exotic Asian-like taste, and Brandy to make this fantastic cocktail. Even though there is nothing Japanese about this cocktail, the flavor profile seems exotic and Japanese.
The Modern Japanese Cocktail vs. The Old Japanese Cocktail.
The most significant difference between the modern and original Japanese Cocktail recipes is the original used Boker’s cardamom bitters, and the modern one uses angostura bitters. Boker’s was a very common flavoring bitter used during the 19th century and early 20th century, but unfortunately, the company closed during prohibition. Most flavoring Bitters could still be produced during prohibition, but the company was already falling on hard times, and the loss of the cocktail market was too much to weather. The company closed its doors in the 1920s and never shared its recipe with anyone. Since the Boker’s cocktail bitter had lost most of its appeal to young drinkers, no one thought to try and preserve or recreate the taste, and eventually, the recipe was forever lost. To substitute Boker’s bitters, many bartenders used Angostura Bitters, and while very good, they are different from Boker’s. This recipe is the post-prohibition Japanese Cocktail that substitutes Angostura Bitters for Boker’s.
To the amazement of everyone, an unopened bottle was found in the 2000s (I believe in some deceased person’s attic) and sold at auction. The bitters were reverse-engineered, and it was discovered the bitters were a kind of cardamom, spice, and citrus bitter. With that, it became possible to accurately recreate many of these older recipes that substituted Angostura bitters for Boker’s bitters.