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What is the perfect Catholic cocktail?

We asked a variety of Catholic writers about their preferred tipple

When I approached our friends and colleagues about this little symposium, each one responded immediately with a moving appeal for their candidate. Clearly, they’d all given the matter some thought before. I like to imagine each of them toddling home from Mass one afternoon, whipping up a batch of their preferred oh-be-joyful, plopping themselves down into an overstuffed armchair by the fire or a wicker couch on the veranda, and silently musing: “This really is the perfect Catholic cocktail.” Here are the fruits of those musings, guaranteed to get you thoroughly jingled well before Santa’s sleigh touches down.

The Pink Gin

Fr Michael Rennier

I like my dogma magisterial and my drinks strong. Although I’m breaking Hilaire Belloc’s hard-and-fast rule never to enjoy a drink invented after the Reformation, I dare say a Pink Gin is worth the risk. Composed of gin, bitters and a cocktail onion, this drink is positively triumphalist in its merciful embrace of both sinner and saint. (Gin itself is an alchemical miracle of the Middle Ages, and the proto-gins were largely monastic in origin.) Evelyn Waugh famously consumed it while he attempted to complete the crossword in his morning paper and the characters in his novels are constantly splashing about various clubs with them in hand. As a faithful son of Mother Church, can I do anything less than raise a glass in solidarity?

Fr Michael Rennier is associate editor of Dappled Things

The Manhattan

Ed Condon

Could there be a more Catholic cocktail than the Manhattan? American rye or bourbon (it isn’t whiskey, and calling it so is a disservice to both), Italian vermouth and German bitters: a balance of the bold and the sweet, with a dash of sorrow thrown in. It is an almost liturgical combination. The recipe calls for a garnish of some kind, and while tradition demands a maraschino cherry, this is a bit fussy for some, who prefer orange peel. But, much as authentic liturgical tastes differ in aesthetics but not in miraculous content, either is right and fitting. That there is a natural limit of three to the number you can manage in a sitting speaks for itself.

Ed Condon is Washington editor of the Catholic News Agency

The Mint Julep

Joseph Pearce

Oscar Wilde quipped that the United States is the only country in human history that has passed from a period of barbarism to a period of decadence without passing through a period of civilisation in between. I would argue, pace Wilde, that Kentucky bourbon proves him wrong. Since, however, I suspect that a “cocktail” requires additional ingredients, other than the purity of the unadulterated spirit, I will say that my favourite cocktail is mint julep, made according to Walker Percy’s precise stipulations (widely available online).

Joseph Pearce is editor of the St Austin Review

The Bronx

Charles Coulombe

My nomination is the now little-known but once prominent concoction known as the Bronx Cocktail. Deeply rooted in the gritty Catholic immigrant experience (the Bronx historically having provided a refuge for Irish and Italians, among others), it rose to prominence during Prohibition, when Catholics as a whole were considered quasi-criminals by the upholders of Temperance.

During those horrible dry years, it was composed of one third orange juice, one third gin and a sixth each of dry and sweet vermouth, strained through ice and served in a martini glass with a twist of orange peel. Its ingredients moderated each other’s worst attributes: the harshness of the (often bathtub) gin was ameliorated by the orange juice, while the frequently underage vermouths cancelled out one another’s failings.

It was the speakeasy drink of choice from California to Maine, and was not only Al Capone’s favourite drink, but the first potation ever had by Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Given that Catholic Americans today are no less in opposition to the cultural mainstream than they were during the dark days of the “Noble Experiment”, the Bronx Cocktail is the perfect drink to rally around. Now, if we can just bring back the Charleston…

Charles Coulombe is an author and lecturer based in Los Angeles

The Rutler

Fr George Rutler

Coincidentally, there is a brief etymological study of “margarita” and “martini” in my eponymous book Coincidentally. Both were invented by Catholics. That is in spite of the fact that certain drinkers of the old school, like Chesterton and Belloc, disdained the very idea of a cocktail. Over 40 years ago, to further my work of evangelising, I invented a cocktail which I called a “Rosemont” after the village where I lived. Through complicated circumstances, my friend Wolfgang, then head mixologist at the King Cole bar in the St Regis Hotel in Manhattan, introduced it there and it soon enjoyed a brief popularity at the lamented La Côte Basque.

I was surprised that cocktails cannot be patented and, since its origin was obscure, my invention was re-named a “Rutler”. The formula is no longer a secret. Rinse a chilled cocktail glass with lemon juice, and then fill it with 4/5 Bombay gin and 1/5 Courvoisier cognac.

Fr George Rutler is the parish priest of St Michael’s Church in New York City

Gin and Tonic

Michael Warren Davis

Post-Anglicanorum Coetibus, we’re invited to embrace the Anglican patrimony. I don’t find much of that patrimony (my own) particularly enticing when compared to the Roman patrimony, which is why I attend the Latin Mass and not the ordinariate liturgy.

Gin and tonics are, however, both the soul of Anglicanism and incomparably more refreshing than any Roman counterpart.

The Church of England is certainly doomed, but we should readily embrace the essential catholicity of the G&T and ensure it outlives its heretic progenitors.

Michael Warren Davis is US editor of the Catholic Herald

Whiskey in the Jar

Madeleine Kearns

There is a jolly old Irish song about a faithless woman who betrays her beloved to the long arm of the law. The poor chap is Irish so, as you might expect, takes it in good cheer and sings about “whiskey in the jar” as he awaits retribution. Like those trendy Brooklyn-types, I also drink out of jars. And being Scottish, I naturally like whisky. This is a cocktail waiting to be coined, I’m sure, except that I can’t think of any other ingredients.

Whisky is, in my view, a lot like religion – it ought not to be diluted.

Madeleine Kearns is a journalism fellow at National Review


Matthew Walther

There are good arguments to be made for the divine simplicity of gin and tonic. A good Pink Gin with ice approaches the heavenly ideal of the cocktail. In the summer nothing beats a glass of limoncello topped off with San Pellegrino. Poor St Paul VI liked to spend his gloomy evenings with a scotch and soda. Do you sense the unfolding of a theme here?

I think that in these confusing times there is a great deal to be said for not prevaricating. We should be unashamed to confess the pure apostolic faith of the Church, ancient and undefiled.

We should, likewise, be happy to pour a few ounces of Hendricks into a glass and drink it without adding vermouth (which no one has ever enjoyed), much less an olive (ditto). Or we could just drink beer, the most catholic option of all.

Matthew Walther is national correspondent for The Week