The Leatherneck Cocktail History
First Published in Ted Saucier’s 1951 book “Bottoms Up”, the author credits the Leatherneck creation to Frank Farrell. Frank was a former WWII Marine and a columnist for the New York World Telegram and Sun and McNaught Syndicate when he came up with the Leatherneck. Above the cocktail, it reads:
“Shake violently on the rocks and serve in cocktail glass… Stop smoking, fasten your seat belts, empty your fountain pens. Because after two gulps, you seriously consider yourself capable of straightening out Chinese fire drills”
Think of this as almost a fatigue green colored variation of a sidecar. It’s a strange-looking cocktail because of its color, but it’s delicious. The leatherneck easily holds its own against other more pretentious drinks. The exact recipe from Bottom’s Up is this:
- Juice 1/2 Lime
- 3 parts Four Roses Rye Whisky
- 1 part Bols Blue Curaçao
- Shake well. Strain into cocktail glass
1/2 a lime will typically give you around 1/2 an ounce (15 mLs) of lime juice. Unfortunately, the recipe is a mix of quantifiable volumes and ratios. Usually, it’s one or the other, but not both. Technically you could mix three whole bottles of whisky, one bottle of curaçao, and the juice of 1/2 a lime, and the recipe would still be valid, but obviously, that’s not what they were getting at. One way to read it is 3 oz (90 mLs) whisky and 1 oz (30 mLs) orange liqueur, but that mixed with the lime juice and melted ice would result in a drink that is around 6 oz (180 mLs) and that’s massive. Typically a sour like this is always 2 oz (60 mLs) base spirit. That would make this 2 oz (60 mLs) whisky, 2/3 oz (20 mLs) Blue orange liqueur, and 1/2 oz (15 mLs) lime juice. That makes for a good and well-balanced cocktail.
What Is The Difference Between Orange Liqueur, Curaçao, And Triple Sec?
Orange liqueur, triple sec, and curaçao are all the same products. They are all orange liqueurs. The reason for the different names is purely a marketing and product differentiation. The Dutch first started producing orange liqueur using laraha oranges from the Caribbean island of curaçao somewhere in the 17th century. Sometime later, several French companies began producing orange liqueur too, and to make their product sound more exotic, bols (the Dutch brand) began marketing theirs as Orange curaçao. In the 1850s, Cointreau came on to the scene and began selling their premium dry orange liqueur. Cointreau advertised that their base spirit (brandy) was filtered three times for clarity and neutrality to give their product a clean, crisp orange flavor. They called their product “Triple Sec,” which translates into English as three times dry. Cheap competitor quickly copied their branding and began calling their orange liqueurs triple sec. Cointreau later deemed the name triple sec had become chavey/tarnished and changed it back to simply orange liqueur. In an already confusing and oversaturated market, dyes were added to make one’s product stand out on the shelf next to other bottles. That is why orange liqueur goes by three different names and comes in every spectrum color.
What If I Don’t Have Blue Curaçao?
Specific to this cocktail, the leatherneck gets its color from blue orange liqueur/blue curaçao. For clarification on the difference, read my history of orange liqueur above. If you do not have blue curaçao, then sub it with clear orange liqueur and half a drop of blue food coloring. That would give you the same results.
The Leather Neck Collar.
The name leatherneck is a slang term for a US Marine. The leather neck collar dates back to the original Continental Marine uniform used during the American colonial period. It was essentially the same as the royal marine uniform used by the British other than the colors. American colonists were technically British citizens and shared many of the same customs and products. This included their military uniforms. Americans differentiated their uniforms by making them blue instead of the standard British red. One of these British carryovers was the decorative stiff leather collar worn to keep the soldier’s head straight and high. It was primarily decorative despite tales of it being used to protect a soldier from getting stabbed in the neck. It was used to elevate the image of both the Royal Marines and Continental Marines by making the men look more impressive.
Marines began to be referred to as leathernecks around the reformation of the Marines Corps in 1798, as their new uniform clung to tradition and still incorporated the old British leather collar. The leather collar lasted until 1872 when it was finally removed from the uniform. The uniform’s leather collar was so tied to the image of the Marine Corps that it survived the 1833, 1839, and 1859 uniform revisions. Today the leather collar is symbolically represented in the high stiff collar of the Marine formal graduation jacket.