DOTW: Pegu Club

Posted by Anita on 03.16.07 7:08 AM

Pegu (c)2007 AECNo mere pretender to the retro cocktail trend, the Pegu Club is a true vintage recipe. It’s been making the rounds since at least the 1920s, and was purportedly invented at the eponymous club in Burma during the British colonial era. (If you’re curious, Robert Hess has a nice DrinkBoy article on the recipe’s evolution over time.)

I first tasted this drink years ago (at the Zig Zag, where else?) but I’ve never tried making it at home. For some reason, even though the ingredients are far from obscure, it just feels more like the kind of drink you want someone else to make.

Luckily for lazy drinkers like me, it’s becoming easier to find bartenders who know how to properly construct this tangy treat. Pegu’s become something of a darling in cocktail circles in the last few years, so much so that in 2005, Audrey Saunders adopted its name — and its Asian vibe — for her now-legendary cocktailian haunt. As you might imagine, getting a properly made Pegu Club cocktail at the Pegu Club is as easy as asking.

Pegu Club
2 oz. gin
1 oz. orange curaçao
1 tsp. lime juice
dash Angostura bitters
dash orange bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into a cocktail class. Garnish with a lime.

bar culture, Drink of the Week, drinks, NYC, recipes



Comment by George Sinclair

I have to disagree; Being an old drink recipe from an old drink recipe book does not make a drink a classic; Regardless of who wrote the book.

The Pegu Club is on the same level as the Last Word; It is a revived old drink, that did not make a linear passage from the past; What is happening in bars these days is totally artificial; Forgotten recipes are being plucked from old books and called “Classics”.

Posted on 03.16.07 at 10:13AM

Comment by Anita

Hi George:

I think you’ll see I never called Pegu a “classic”… I’d reserve that designation for a select few drinks like the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, or a properly made Martini — just to name a few. I did say “retro” and “vintage”, which I don’t think one can reasonably dispute, given this recipe’s age. Perhaps those words have different connotations in the UK, but here in the States, they simply refer to old items of some value or charm. “Retro” implies a camp/arch sensibility, and “vintage” hints at an old aesthetic and/or time-honored pleasure.

Funny you should mention it, as I also happen to be a huge fan of the Last Word — another drink I would hesitate to call “a classic”. I don’t really have a problem with bartenders resurrecting good, old drinks, especially if it keeps them from concocting bad, new drinks.

I haven’t seen any menus calling either drink “a classic”, although two bars I have been to in recent days have cited the first-known publication dates and sources of at least some of their recipes. Perhaps that’s a bit of letting the drinker draw her own erroneous conclusions, but I prefer to see it as a lovely (and increasingly rare) case of giving credit where due, rather than leading the customer to infer that any unusal drink is a bar’s original creation.

Posted on 03.16.07 at 12:03PM

Comment by Dayne

Hi Anita-

I’ve become fond of a slightly different recipe. There’s a good thread on eG about this, but the clincher for me was this post by David Wondrich, where he goes over some of the historical variations. His final one is what I use, also having come to the conclusion that it’s my favorite:

2 oz gin (I usually use Tanqueray)
1/2 oz curacao (I use Grand Marnier)
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1 dash orange bitters (I prefer Regan’s in this)
1 dash Angostura.

Try it and let us know how you think it compares to the recipe you posted!

Posted on 03.16.07 at 1:43PM

Comment by Anita

So, more lime, less curacao? That sounds, actually, quite like what I had last night at Pegu. It was cracingly tart, but not too much so. When I have my bar back together (and I hope that will be very, very soon!) I will give it a shake.

Ironic that the first Pegu I make at home will be a “new” Pegu. :)

Posted on 03.16.07 at 1:58PM

Comment by George Sinclair

Hi anita,

Yes, I know you, yourself, did not use the word “Classic” explicitly, but there are those who could try to use the word…

“Perhaps that’s a bit of letting the drinker draw her own erroneous conclusions…”

This is done more than any of us realise, let others make the technical mistakes, and the others “forget” to correct them, thus perpetuating the falsehood (which can sometimes be to their advantage).

Mention should also be made of the modern American palate, which is completely out of synch with the historical palate of past recipe books. Modern American drinks seem to have almost double the quantity of sweet ingredients than they used to. And with such a distortion, flavour-wise, it makes me wonder why people bother to reference old recipes, when they clearly are not able to appreciate them, without additional drops of sweetness.

The 1934, de Fleury recipe, seems to be the recipe that most Americans go with, as the more European recipes of MacElhone and Jimmy (of Ciros) would definitely not please.

Posted on 03.16.07 at 3:02PM

Comment by janelle

Yikes, nothing more a pain than a bartender who cannot concoct your current fave drink. I find lately I cannot ask for a sidecar… too many bad renditions.

So happy to hear you share my affection for lazy drinks and drinkable cocktails:).


Posted on 03.20.07 at 4:36PM

Comment by Anita

I hope I didn’t give anyone the impression that I had a hard time getting anyone to make me a Pegu Club (or in fact any cocktail) in New York — quite the contrary. The drinks across the board were, in fact, the highlight of our trip. I’m actually working on a writeup at the moment. :)

Posted on 03.20.07 at 5:08PM

Comment by Anita

Getting back to George’s comment:
>>the modern American palate, which is completely out of synch with the historical palate of past recipe books

Yes, well: American taste in homes, cars, and standards of beauty — just to name three off the top of my head — have all undergone drastic changes in the last 80 years, as well. None of those are in line with my personal taste either, truth be told. But I agree with what (I think) you’re getting at, the sad truth is that it’s rough getting a non-sweet drink, even in the best bars.

Posted on 03.21.07 at 11:44AM

Comment by erik_flannestad

Had a tart and tasty Pegu Club at the Slanted Door on Monday.

Honestly, the first time I’ve ever been impressed at all with that cocktail.

I’ll admit I’m not over-fond of the money to value of the food there; but, I was really impressed with the cocktails and bar staff.

Posted on 03.21.07 at 3:14PM

Comment by Anita

Erik: We ate at Slanted Door when dinosaurs roamed the earth, back when they were in the Hipper Mission. We hated every last thing about it — food, price, attitude, crowd — and nothing I’ve read since then has swayed me to give it another whack.

But you’re at least the second person lately (and I have a general sense of hearing other good things, further back) to compliment the bar there. I may have to drink and graze, hmmm….

Posted on 03.21.07 at 3:54PM

Pingback by Married …with dinner » Blog Archive » Rose-colored world

[...] What I didn’t know when I accepted the assignment was that one of the events would be held at Clover Club, the newish Brooklyn bar from Julie Reiner of Flatiron Lounge and Pegu Club fame. And, better still, that I’d have a chance to watch Ms. Reiner and Paul Pacult lead a hands-on immersion training for eight tequila-loving bartenders flown in from all around the country. (I won’t steal my own thunder any more than I already have: You’ll have to check out the NOTCOT post for the full scoop.) [...]

Posted on 02.06.09 at 9:36PM

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