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Friday, July 27, 2012

Vintage Happy Hour with Jenny Q: Lemon Squash

It's another scorcher on the East Coast today! How about a little refreshment? I found the perfect subject for a Vintage Happy Hour post in one of the stories in our short story collection, Ladies in Waiting by Kate Douglas Wiggin. In A Cathedral Courtship, New York native Kitty Schyuler is touring the cathedral towns of England, and is just dying to experience the England she's read all about in her favorite romance novels. Left on her own to order dinner, she attempts to order a thoroughly English meal:

An elegant, irreproachable, high-minded model of dignity and reserve has just knocked and inquired what we will have for dinner. It is very embarrassing to give orders to a person who looks like a judge of the Supreme Court, but I said languidly, “What would you suggest?”

After heeding the advice of her oh-so-English waiter for the main courses, it would appear Kitty needs help ordering dessert as well, but she's determined to prove she knows at least one thing about English cuisine:

“Just the thing; and for dessert—” I couldn’t think what we ought to have for dessert in England, but the high-minded model coughed apologetically and said, “I was thinking you might like gooseberry tart and cream for a sweet, miss.”

Oh, that I could have vented my New World enthusiasm in a shriek of delight as I heard those intoxicating words, heretofore met only in English novels!

“Ye-es,” I said hesitatingly, though I was palpitating with joy, “I fancy we should like gooseberry tart (here a bright idea entered my mind) and perhaps in case my aunt doesn’t care for the gooseberry tart, you might bring a lemon squash, please.”

Now I had never met a lemon squash personally, but I had often heard of it, and wished to show my familiarity with British culinary art.

“One lemon squash, miss?”

“Oh, as to that, it doesn’t matter,” I said haughtily; “bring a sufficient number for two persons.”


Aunt Celia came home in the highest feather. She had twice been taken for an Englishwoman. She said she thought that lemon squash was a drink; I thought it was a pie; but we shall find out at dinner, for, as I said, I ordered a sufficient number for two persons.

As Kitty learned, lemon squash is a drink, and one that was very popular with the Victorians and Edwardians. Some people use the terms "squash" and "cordial" interchangeably, and they've been around since the sixteenth century. Since they require neither ice or alcohol to preserve them, they were staples in most pantries, and could be made with just about any fruit ready at hand, with berries being especially popular.

A real lemon squash is made by cooking down lemon juice and zest to form a concentrate, which is then added to water and soda water for a fresh, flavorful drink. I found a lovely blog with step by step pictorial instructions, if you're inclined to make your own. In most recipes calling for lemon squash, a strong lemonade or lemon juice combined with sugar syrup can be substituted.

The easiest way to create a lemon squash cocktail is to simply add soda water and your favorite alcohol. Whiskey, rum, and vodka turned up the most in my research as being perfect complements to the sweet and tart concentrate.

I found two refreshing specialty lemon squash cocktail recipes, one made with the melon-flavored liqueur Midori, and the other invented in Cyprus in 1930, and said to have been a favorite drink of King Farouk of Egypt.

Midori Lemonade

1 1/2 oz Midori
lemon squash


1 1/2 oz Midori
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz sugar syrup
Top with water

Pour ingredients over ice into a tall glass, and stir gently to bring out the Midori flavor.

Brandy Sour

2 oz Cypriot brandy
1 oz lemon squash
2 to 4 drops bitters
Soda water or lemonade for topping

Stir ingredients first three ingredients together and serve over crushed ice in a tall cocktail glass, top off with soda water or lemonade, garnish with cherries or lime or lemon wedges.

Incidentally, the Brandy Sour is the official cocktail of Cyprus, and Cyprus-produced brandy is sought after for its distinctive sweet, caramel-like aftertaste.

Both drinks sound delicious to me! Sweet and tart with a kick, just like the young women at the heart of the stories in Ladies in Waiting. Whatever you wet your whistle with this weekend, keep it cool! Salut!

Photo Credits:


Ladies in Waiting by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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