Yale Cocktail – present Day Variation of the 1800s Classic

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The Original Yale To Present Day Variations

This drink dates back to the late 1800s and the oldest printed recipe I can find for it is from the 1895 book Modern American Drinks by George Kappeler. The original Yale Cocktail is 3 dashes orange bitters, 1 dash peyschaud bitters, a piece of lemon-peel, one jigger of Old Tom gin and a squirt of soda water. Another early version of the Yale, and the most referenced, is the Old Waldorf Astoria’s recipe of; A dash of orange bitters, 1.5 oz of Old Tom gin, 1.5 oz of sweet Vermouth and a squirt of soda water. These are fairly different recipes for the same cocktail both from around the same time but I will edge on the side The Old Waldorf here over George Kappeler. The Old Waldorf Astoria book makes a special mention under this cocktail that is their bar was one of the favorite weekend hangouts for Yale students. I imagine if any bar knew how to make the namesake cocktail of Yale, it would be the most popular Yale student hangout. That is why I have gone with the Waldorf recipe over the older George Kappeler Recipe.

The Yale Cocktail recipe stayed mostly consistent up until prohibition with the last one in this style being Hugo Ensslin’s 1917 recipe from his book Recipes For Mixed Drinks. After prohibition things start to get a bit weird and the sweet vermouth is replaced with dry vermouth and Crème Yvette and blue orange liqueur start to get added. One of the more modern variations uses Creme de Violette. Not to say these post prohibition recipes are bad, In fact the creme de violette one is pretty good, they are just not anything like the pre-prohibition ones.

Ivy League Universities And The Cocktail Named After Them

In the United States there is a collection of 8 universities referred as the Ivy League universities. Really the term is used to group the universities by their sporting league but it also eludes to their heritage. 7 of the 8 were universities prior to american revolution, Cornell being the odd man out, and hold themselves to a high esteem. There are 2 other elite pre-revolution Universities but they are too far from the others to be part of the same league. In fact the term Ivy League was first coined by a sports writer in the 1930s describing the upcoming football season.

Like any good sport rivalry, each university in the Ivy League also has a cocktail named after them. The Harvard and Yale cocktails are the most famous of the Ivy League cocktails and for good reason. They taste the best compared to the others and I actually prefer the more contemporary blue colored Yale Cocktail to the older ones. As you can also see I know absolutely nothing about team sports. I know there are balls and points but past that not much else. I was more of a D&D and Japanese manga kinda kid.

The Most Important Ingredient

The most important ingredient in this modern variation of the Yale is the Old Tom gin. Normal dry gin just doesn’t cut and makes the cocktail taste too much like just a blue colored dry martini. Old Tom gin gives a wonderful softness that works well with the creme de violette and makes for a floral, citrusy, and mildly sweet cocktail. Dry gin just overpowers the other flavors. The herbal notes of the dry gin end up competing with the floral and citrus flavors and end just mudding the flavor.


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Yale Cocktail – Classic late 1800s Recipe

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American






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Learn how to make a classic Yale cocktail named after the Ivy League School and sporting the universities iconic blue color.


  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters

  • 1/2 oz Creme de Violette

  • 1 oz Dry Vermouth

  • 2 oz Old Tom Gin


  • Add Ice To Mixing Glass and combine all ingredients in the mixing glass.
  • Stir the ingredients for 20 – 30 seconds to properly chill and dilute the drink. 
  • Strain into glass and garnish with a lemon peel


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