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Friday, June 22, 2012

Vintage Happy Hour with Jenny Q: Careful . . . It Bites!

I've been in a Western mood ever since falling in love with Her Prairie Knight by B.M. Bower, so I thought today's Vintage Happy Hour would be the perfect time to brush up on my Western drinking history!

Of course, in the Old West most everybody was drinking whiskey. It was cheap and there was plenty of it. But it didn't always taste good. Saloon owners cut it with anything from turpentine to gunpowder to stretch a bottle further and make another buck. By the early 20th century, cocktails were making their way west, and it should be no surprise that the first Western cocktails were whiskey based. One of the most famous is the Rattlesnake.

Here's the recipe most experts believe to be the original Rattlesnake, dating back to the early 1900s, appearing in print in the 1930s in the Savoy Cocktail Book (reprinted from

1 ½ oz blended whiskey
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp absinthe (or anise liqueur)
½ tsp simple syrup (or powdered sugar)
1 egg white

Combine all ingredients with ice, shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.

Description of the Rattlesnake from the book:

It will either cure rattlesnake bite, or kill rattlesnakes, or make you see them.

As with most cocktails, there are a lot of different recipes floating around. There's the Texas Rattlesnake, Missouri Rattlesnake, and Beretta Rattlesnake, to name a few. If you're a little squeamish about the absinthe and the egg white, check out the tamer, tropical variation of the Rattlesnake in this Bartending Bootcamp video:

While I can appreciate the merits of the classic recipe, the tamer version is more my style. I can just picture myself in an Old West saloon, sauntering up to the bar and ordering a Rattlesnake. Of course, back then a man ordering a "fancy" drink may have been given a hard time by the tough guys in the place, but as a woman I'll enjoy my prerogative to have a fancy drink once in a while. Join Me?

Photo Credits:,


Her Prairie Knight by B.M. Bower
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