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  • Writer's pictureBrian Tasch

Correcting the Scofflaw

The Scofflaw is one of several classic rye whiskey cocktails to benefit from the cocktail revival of the early 2000s and the rye boom that followed. A Prohibition-era cocktail from Harry's New York Bar in Paris, the name is a cheeky reference to those deviant Americans who brazenly ignored the law and chose to imbibe during the time.

Scofflaw (contemporary recipe)

1.5 oz rye whiskey

1 oz dry vermouth

.5 oz lemon juice

.5 oz grenadine

1 dash orange bitters

I imagine the rarity of classic rye sours is one of the reasons the Scofflaw has survived all these years. That isn't to say it's a bad drink, but I gather few have been blown away by it. Rarely featured on menus, it seemingly exists for rye drinkers to have a classic sour to fall back on.

I've had a lot of mediocre Scofflaws in my day (almost all of them). I've also made a lot of mediocre Scofflaws. Spicy, fruity, dry, and often thin and astringent, it usually tastes as disjointed as the recipe reads.

Turns out I'm not the only one who's left scratching my head after a sip of a Scofflaw. Back in my Pouring Ribbons days, the wonderful John Reid, a top-notch gentleman and former world record holder for the largest balloon sculpture (POPtimus Prime) revealed he'd been searching for a great Scofflaw for years. It was the drink he would order every so often to see if someone, ANYONE, could crack the code and make a version he could get excited about. He'd tried at many of the best bars in the world to no avail.

This challenge transpired as I was working through my dry vermouth tastings for my tasting guides. I suggested the “secret” was probably in the vermouth. After running through 19 versions of the Scofflaw, I landed on one which was definitively better than the rest. Turns out the key was the (at the time) difficult-to-find Noilly Prat Original Dry Vermouth. This makes perfect sense since Noilly Prat was the most prominent producer of vermouth in France when the Scofflaw was created in 1924.

Well, last year Noilly Prat changed the formula for the Original Dry and it no longer makes for the Scofflaw it once did. I also fell down a rabbit hole of old cocktail books and recipes which led to my questioning the foundation of the drink to begin with. And finally, I made a Scofflaw with Maurin Blanc vermouth for my January Vermouth Roundup and things started fitting together.

This reaffirmed my theory: the particular vermouth one uses is the key to a good Scofflaw. I began to wonder if we've all been using the wrong vermouth. Not the wrong brand, but the wrong style.

Let's explore this theory by traveling back in time 100 years to look at the earliest Scofflaw recipes and explore the cocktail zeitgeist of the period.

An Unreliable Narrator

The Scofflaw was invented in 1924 by a bartender credited as “Jock” at Harry's New York Bar in Paris. The drink was first published in Harry MacElhone's ABC of Mixing Cocktails. Thankfully, the EUVS Vintage Cocktail Library has an edition of the 1930 reprint available online for free.

A photo of a recipe. We read: 257. Scoff-law Cocktail. One dash of orange bitters, 1/3 canadian club, 1/3 french vermouth, 1/6 lemon juice, 1/6 grenadine. On the next line we read the following prose: "Chicago Tribune, January 27th, 1924: Hardly has Boston added to the Gaiety of Nations by adding to Webster's Dictionary the opprobrious term of "scoff-law" to indicate the chap who indicts the bootlegger, when Paris comes back with a "wet answer" – Jock, the genial Bartender of Harry's New York Bar, yesterday invented the Scoff-law Cocktail, and it has already become exceedingly popular among American prohibition dodgers."

As you can see, the contemporary recipe has been rebalanced to reflect an updated palate. The original, when scaled to a standard cocktail portion by today's standards, would read something like:

Scofflaw (original recipe)

1.25 oz Canadian Club rye whiskey

1.25 oz French vermouth

scant .66 oz lemon juice

scant .66 oz grenadine

1 dash orange bitters

That's kind of an awkward spec, but scaling it up to 1.5 oz whiskey and vermouth with .75 oz lemon and grenadine just makes for a monstrous portion that won't fit into any standard glassware after dilution. There's also no good reason to put that much vermouth in a sour as it makes for a limp, watery nothing of a cocktail.

So then what's the problem, you ask? The best Scofflaw I've made was with Noilly Prat's now-discontinued Original Dry vermouth formula.

A photo of a tall green bottle labeled "Noilly Prat Original French Dry." Next to this bottle sits a Nick and Nora cocktail glass holding a Scofflaw cocktail.

Against over a dozen other dry and extra dry vermouths, it was the obvious champ. It has a little more sugar than your typical dry vermouth and a richer flavor profile on account of its oxidized, sherry-esque notes. This formula is now lost to the not-so-distant past. Knowing that nothing else on the dry vermouth market could hold up, I felt it was time to explore vermouth beyond the dry category.

I believe the Scofflaw is best made not with dry vermouth, but with French sweet white vermouth (blanc) or Spanish sweet white vermouth (blanco). I'm not the first to touch on this concept.

Scofflaw (Death & Co. Recipe, 2012)

1.5 oz Templeton Rye Whiskey

.5 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth

.5 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth

.5 oz Lemon

.5 oz Grenadine

1 Dash Orange Bitters

Death and Co's Scofflaw spec calls for a 50/50 split of Dolin Dry and Dolin Blanc vermouths. I haven't encountered any other recipes which stray from using dry or extra dry vermouth.

Jim Meehan has claimed, most recently in Meehan's Bartender Manual, that cocktails of this time likely used French sweet white vermouth rather than dry. He never cites concrete examples beyond the El Presidente, but he does point to the fact that many cocktails of the time taste better when you use blanc vermouth.

When the Scofflaw was invented, “French vermouth” was more of an umbrella term encompassing Marseille and Vermouth de Chambery styles. I’ll dig into these distinctions and history when I discuss the specifics of our vermouth choices.

What bartenders of the 1920s used when they called for “French vermouth” is anyone's guess, and likely inconsistent from bar to bar, country to country. To this day, the majority of bartenders struggle to explain the differences between the three major styles of vermouth (dry, sweet white, and sweet red), to say nothing of the regional differences between each. If there are French words on the label and the liquid inside isn't red, it's French vermouth, right?

Cocktail “history” is rife with inconsistencies. Was the French bartender “Jock” of Scofflaw legend actually “Jacques?” Is that strike one against the accuracy of the Scottish MacElhone's documentation? Jokes aside, there is no way to confirm which French vermouth was in the first Scofflaw, but by digging into the category we can draw our own conclusions.

So from Paris in 1924, let’s journey to the capital of cocktail culture in 1930: London's Savoy Hotel.

To The Savoy (Hotel, not Region)!

Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) does specify its calls for “French vermouth” or “Dry French vermouth.”

A photo from a page of The Savoy Cocktail Book listing 5 cocktails. From top to bottom, these read as follows. Marguerite cocktail: 1 dash orange bitters, 1/3 french vermouth, 2/3 dry gin. Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Twist orange peel on top. Marny Cocktail: 1/3 Grand Marnier, 2/3 dry gin. Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Martinez cocktail (6 people): Pour into the shaker 3 glasses of gin, 3 of French Vermouth, add a dessertspoonful of orange bitters and 2 of curacao or maraschino. Shake and serve with a cherry and a piece of lemon rind. Martini (dry) cocktail: 1/3 french vermouth, 2/3 dry gin. Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Martini (Extra dry): 2 ounces dry gin, 1/4 ounce dry vermouth. Serve with an olive.

Strangely, the Martinez cocktail asks for "French Vermouth." This is noteworthy because the Martinez has always been made with sweet red vermouth, implying the French Vermouth being called for in this particular recipe would have been sweet white. As for the Scofflaw, he again simply calls for “French vermouth.”

A photo taken of a page in the Savoy Cocktail Book. On the left, we see a recipe reading, "1 dash orange bitters, 1/3 canadian whisky, 1/3 french vermouth, 1/6 lemon juice, 1/6 grenadine." In italics, we read, "Shake well and strain into cocktail glass." On the right side is written "Scoff-law cocktail"

This doesn't prove that the Scofflaw used blanc vermouth. It does, though, cast a shadow of doubt over the default assumption that it used dry vermouth.

Another popular classic cocktail from this time provides further insight.

To Cuba!

Cocktail historian Dave Wondrich gets credit for “correcting” the El Presidente cocktail through his discovery of the original, historically accurate recipe. Yes, the El Presidente recipe asked for French vermouth, but it specifically called for a French vermouth of the Vermouth de Chambery style. By the time the El Presidente appeared in cocktail books and manuals outside of Cuba, Vermouth de Chambery had been “simplified” to French vermouth. It took almost a full century before Mr. Wondrich caught the mistake.

It seems unlikely that out of thousands of published cocktail recipes, the El Presidente is the only cocktail to fall victim to this dry/blanc swap. Given the popularity of Dolin's and C. Comoz's Chambery-style vermouths, doesn't it seem suspicious these old books only reference the broader “French vermouth?” How likely is it that out of all the cocktails to come out of France during this time, not a single one used this distinctly French style of vermouth? How likely is it that the Cuban El Presidente is the only classic cocktail in existence to use Chambery-style vermouth?

Lack of appropriate documentation during this period of cocktail history has proven itself unreliable at best, making an even stronger case that French vermouth during this time could have very well been sweet white, not dry.

To New Orleans!

To further drive this point home, you can take a look at the Blackthorn cocktail, published in both MacElhone's ABC of Mixing Drinks and Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book.

A picture taken from The Savoy cocktail book. On the left, we read "Blackthorn Cocktail." On the right side we read a recipe: "3 dashes angostura bitters, 3 dashes pernod, one half irish whisky, one half french vermouth". In italics, we read, "shake well and strain into glass."

As noted earlier, The Savoy Cocktail Book will specify when it calls for “Dry French Vermouth” or “French Vermouth.” In this case, it calls for French. What’s interesting is that nearly every contemporary cocktail recipe for the Blackthorn calls for a split of Italian Sweet Red Vermouth and French Dry Vermouth.

These two points lead me to believe the original Blackthorn could have used sweet white French Vermouth and, somewhere along the way, bartenders approximated blanc vermouth by splitting dry and sweet vermouth. Eventually, it became universally acceptable to use either sweet red Italian vermouth or to split the vermouth. If we accept that the Blackthorn used to call for dry French vermouth but is now considered better with sweet vermouth, why don't we open those same doors to the Scofflaw?

Look, I'm not trying to rewrite history. It’s safe to assume that the original Scofflaw used Noilly Prat dry vermouth (Original Dry), especially since we can’t prove otherwise.

I do, however, think there is enough of a possibility that blanc Vermouth de Chambery works in this drink to warrant exploration. I also think that, at this point, we've speculated all we can about the past.

If “historical documents” can't help us sort this out, maybe our own palates can be the judge. At the end of the day, I'd rather have the best version of the cocktail rather than default to the historical 1:1 anyway.

Nailing the Spec

To test my theory that sweet white vermouth works best in the Scofflaw, I needed a robust vermouth line-up. I started with four vermouths but ended up using ten to encompass a wider range of styles. I tested two different grenadines, one made with POM juice and one made with freshly-pressed pomegranate seeds. I defaulted to Old Overholt for the rye whiskey at first, then realized I should double-check each Scofflaw with a higher-proof, fruitier rye like Rittenhouse.

I started with the standard contemporary ratios. I tried a few variations of Death & Co’s 50/50 split vermouth recipe. To balance texture and sweetness I compared the standard recipe against rejiggered versions with reduced sweet white vermouth (.75 oz). I also tested most of the sweet white vermouth versions with three different amounts of grenadine (.25 oz, .33 oz, and .5 oz).

In the end, I tasted roughly 50 versions of the drink. The problem is, most of them were pretty good, which is kind of the problem. It’s usually pretty good, but not great.

Functional performers went down the drain. Once I determined the best spec for each version of the cocktail, I was able to form a clearer picture of the drink and, finally, determine my preferred expression.

A photo of the Corpse Revived Scofflaw: a pinkish, citrusy cocktail in a Nick and Nora cocktail glass.

Scofflaw (Corpse Revived)

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey

1 oz Maurin Blanc Vermouth

.5 oz Lemon Juice

Scant .5 oz Grenadine

1 Dash Orange Bitters

While not the most common vermouth out there, I found Maurin Blanc to be an ideal vermouth for the Scofflaw. It's not only the closest approximation to a Scofflaw made with the old, discontinued Noilly Prat Original Dry formula, it's the most delicious.

It remains perfectly balanced no matter the proof or profile of the rye whiskey. I also found dialing the grenadine back a tiny bit to compensate for the increase in sugar from dry to sweet white vermouth helped maintain balance.

Building a Better Scofflaw

Unlike my previous tastings, I won’t waste space with detailed tasting notes for each version of the drink I tested. A few were not good, but most were fine and some were spectacular. I found specific bottles mattered less than the categories they represented. General notes on how each vermouth performed can be found in the vermouth section below.

Instead, I’ll provide ingredient-by-ingredient, step-by-step suggestions for building the very best version of the Scofflaw possible.

Find the right vermouth for your Scofflaw

We’ll start here since this is the crux of the entire write-up. The creation of dry vermouth is credited to Joseph Noilly in 1813 of, you guessed it, Noilly Prat. Dolin hit the market eight years later with their lighter Chambery style in 1821. Dolin gets credit for sweet white vermouth, also known as blanc, bianco, or blanco vermouth. C. Comoz patented the first “crystal clear” Chambery vermouth in 1881.

An overhead photo of four scofflaw cocktails in coupes sitting in front of four bottles of vermouth. From left to right, we see Noilly Prat Original Dry, Dolin Dry, Dolin Blanc, and C. Comoz Vermouth de Chambery

Most French dry vermouths are bright and herbaceous. Some will have spicier, fruitier profiles (Maurin Dry) while some will be more herbaceous and savory (Routin Dry). Vermouth de Chambery is known for its soft, floral profile. The Marseilles style, of which Noilly Prat is synonymous, is known for barrel-aging and oxidation, which imparts a richer, sherry-esque profile.

French sweet white vermouths, however, are sweeter and more confectionery which pushes the fruitier, spicier notes to the forefront. Because sweet white vermouths identify by color (white, blanc, bianco, blanco) rather than legally-binding nomenclatures like Extra Dry (less than 30 g/l sugar) or Sweet (over 130 g/l sugar), they can be and are sometimes Semi-sweet (90 g/l – 130 g/l sugar).

Both styles of vermouth pair nicely with rye whiskey and are most often combined in stirred, spirit-forward cocktails – usually inspired by the Negroni or Manhattan. The Scofflaw is the only classic sour-style cocktail I can think of which calls for both rye whiskey and vermouth.

Jim Meehan argues blanc vermouth works better than dry vermouth in cocktails of this era for two reasons. First, it pairs better with fruity modifiers (e.g., grenadine), and second, it pairs better with barrel-aged spirits. I’ve found both statements to be true.

A picture of bottles and coupes on a counter. On the left, a green bottle of Dolin Dry Vermouth with a white and green label. On the right, clear a bottle of Dolin Blanc Vermouth with a white and blue label. Next to each of these bottles sit a coupe holding a Scofflaw made with Dolin.

The Flavor Bible's pairings for rye include anise, apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, dates, fennel, honey, maple, molasses, orange, parsley, peas, raisins, sage, and thyme. These overlap with the tasting notes for different vermouths, but just about any sweet white vermouth will check almost every box. Most sweet white vermouths have an herbaceous enough backbone to evoke the tasting notes you look for in dry vermouth. Dry vermouth, however, usually lacks the deeper brown sugar, dates, maple, molasses flavors.

As for finding vermouth pairings for pomegranate, The Flavor Bible points us to allspice, anise, apple, apricot, banana, bay leaf, blackberry, caramel, cardamom, cherry, chocolate, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, dates, ginger, grapefruit, honey, lemon, lime, maple, mint, molasses, nectarine, nutmeg, nuts, orange, parsley, passion fruit, peaches, pears, black pepper, port, raspberry, rhubarb, sage, strawberries, vanilla. Once again, in a Venn Diagram, sweet white vermouth holds the lion's share of these flavors.

We can see now that the flavor profile of sweet white vermouth will instantly compliment the rye, lemon, and grenadine called for in the Scofflaw.

Keep in mind that, with most vermouth, increased sugar content is the result of balancing an increase in bitter botanicals. So not only are sweet white vermouths sweeter than dry vermouths, they're categorically more bitter. We have to consider this when mixing – bitterness can either keep the overall sweetness of this tart cocktail in check or throw the whole thing off into bitter astringency.

A photo of two different bottles of Noilly Prat Original Dry side-by-side on a counter. The bottle on the left reads "Original French Dry" and has a darker, ornate-looking label. The bottle on the right has a white label and reads "Original Dry." In front of each bottle is a Scofflaw cocktail in a coupe.

Up to this point, my favorite version of this drink was made with a vermouth which no longer exists as it once did: Noilly Prat Original Dry. Thankfully, I've found French blanc and Spanish blanco vermouth make for a better Scofflaw than those made with dry or extra dry vermouth.

The Vermouth Gauntlet

bottles of dolin blanc, dolin dry, el bandarra blanco, lustau blanco, comoz blanc, yzaguirre dry reserva, and contratto bianco

Here are some abbreviated notes on the vermouths I used in my tastings and how they generally performed. Detailed tasting notes on the vermouths themselves can be found in their respective vermouth guides.

Dolin Dry – If you're reaching for a French dry vermouth, 9 times out of 10 you're reaching for Dolin Dry. A Scofflaw with Dolin Dry is the most common expression of the cocktail and is generally considered “standard.” This worked well but leaves plenty of room for improvement as it’s a little disjointed, a tad thin, and borderline astringent.

Noilly Prat Original Dry – The “other” French dry vermouth. This used to be my absolute favorite cocktail vermouth of any style until the recent formula change. The current formula makes for a disjointed Scofflaw. The vermouth feels suddenly out of place in the mid-palate where all its more savory flavors are on full display. It's a jarring, frankly unpleasant, shift from the fruit and spice.

Rockwell Extra Dry – One of the best Extra Dry vermouths I've had from any producer in any region in a while. I had a freshly opened bottle so I had to know. Rockwell goes the distance against Dolin Dry flavor-wise, but it ultimately succumbs to the same faults: the texture is too thin and it doesn’t sit particularly well.

Yzaguirre Dry Reserve - I figured I may as well round the tasting out with all my favorite dry vermouths. Yzaguirre is salinic and sharp with the acidity of fino sherry. It was simply too drying and acidic. The resulting Scofflaws were always too tart and/or astringent.

Dolin Blanc – Probably the most commonly called-for blanc vermouth. Goes well with just about everything thanks to its near-perfect balance of confectionary, fruity, and herbaceous flavors. Worked incredibly well no matter the whiskey it was paired with, with each fruity, herbaceous sip wrapped up in a neat vanilla bow. Based on its popularity and availability in 375ml bottles, I can’t think of a better way to introduce yourself to the category and test its versatility in cocktails like this.

C. Comoz Blanc – This was the original vermouth used in the El Presidente cocktail so I felt it necessary to include it in this particular tasting. Easily one of the most bitter vermouths produced in France with a prominent wormwood backbone. That wormwood bitterness nearly throws the balance of the drink off, and while I enjoyed it, I admit it is too bitter for this cocktail.

Maurin Blanc - Very possibly my favorite Scofflaw in the line-up. This was the one that first lit the lightbulb over my head. Maurin is confectionary and fruity as heck with tons of raisiny, oxidized wine flavors. It’s the closest replacement I’ve found so far for Noilly Prat Original Dry.

Lustau Blanco – If Noilly Prat Original Dry's oxidized sherry notes were the keys to its success, why wouldn't we try Spanish sweet white vermouths which often incorporate sherry wine grapes like Macabeo or Moscatel? I find Lustau Blanco a bit of an outlier for Spanish sweet white vermouth. It’s a bit lighter on the confectionary Mediterannean spices than its peers. It’s also significantly more bitter than your typical Spanish offering. The sherry notes are more in the dusty, mushroom spectrum rather than the rich, raisiny. This lends itself to a perfectly balanced, spicier, slightly less fruity Scofflaw.

El Bandarra Blanco - El Bandarra Blanco is typical of a Spanish sweet white vermouth: acidic, heavy on baking spices like vanilla and cinnamon, and full of orange and raisin on the palate. It sets itself apart with its prominent wormwood backbone. The result: a delicious Scofflaw.

Contratto Bianco – Contratto Bianco is an Italian sweet white vermouth and like many other Italian vermouths it makes no effort to be delicate or subtle. It's bracingly bitter with plenty of sugar (190 g/l) to balance that out. In this case, it was too bitter across the board, offering far too much grapefruity wormwood astringency which bullied the rest of the ingredients.

The main takeaways

  1. French and Spanish sweet white vermouths tend to work across the board. Italian sweet white vermouth is almost always too sweet and/or too bitter. While the sweetest French and Spanish white vermouths top out around 144 g/l sugar, most Italian sweet white sits between 160 g/l and 190 g/l. They’re simply not interchangeable.

  2. Extra Dry vermouth is categorically too dry for this drink. No matter how nice the flavor is upon shaking and serving, it quickly falls apart and skews too tart and thin.

  3. Dry vermouth is hit or miss. The majority of the cocktail world’s dry vermouth is consumed in Martinis and sometimes it seems as though producers optimize their dry expressions for just such a purpose. The herbal quality that makes dry vermouth so successful in savory cocktails tends to clash with the other ingredients in a Scofflaw. It is mostly outperformed by sweet white vermouth.

  4. Bitter isn’t always better. I love what bracingly bitter vermouth can do to keep a cocktail alive from start to finish despite dilution or warming, but in this particularly dry drink with a tart and tannic sweetener, fresh citrus, and spicy rye whiskey it’s usually too much.

  5. Splitting the vermouth 50/50 is unnecessary and needlessly fussy. You’re better off finding a sweet white vermouth that works and going all-in on it. Death & Co’s 2012 recipe specifies Templeton Rye and I imagine their spec was built around that. In fact, they didn't carry the recipe over to their second book, Cocktail Codex, which significantly revamped their house grenadine recipe.

TLDR: Your best bet is to opt for a sweet white vermouth. But wouldn't that go against the inherently dry nature of the cocktail, you ask? Surprisingly, no, and the reason lies in the grenadine.

A better understanding of grenadine

This fairly common cocktail ingredient remains one of the most misunderstood sweeteners to this day. In fact, the cocktail world recently erupted once more into its semi-regular debate over the historical authenticity of cocktail grenadine. It's fascinating but ultimately doesn't change how we will be discussing it today.

At its most basic, grenadine is pomegranate syrup. To go one step deeper, it's a pomegranate cordial because the liquid component is fruit juice – in this case, fresh pomegranate juice. It is also a compound syrup because it contains an extra ingredient: orange flower/blossom water. Ultimately, grenadine is a pomegranate cordial lightly flavored with orange flowers.

The most important thing to note here is that grenadine should taste like fresh pomegranate: tart and tannic. Grenadine doesn't work exactly like a simple syrup because pomegranate contains a drying astringency brought on by its tannic and citric acid content (and much lower malic, oxalic, succinic, tartaric, and ascorbic acids).

Because I was concerned about the Scofflaw skewing too sweet with white vermouth, I tried each of those versions with reduced amounts of grenadine. Cutting the grenadine by half to .25 oz was too dry across the board. Reducing it to .33 oz was hit or miss (mostly miss), with the successful ones starting tasty and getting progressively worse as they sat. A scant .5 oz, just shy of the .5 oz line on a jigger (about 13 ml for those in the world with more reasonable units of measurement) is ideal for the Scofflaw.

Photo of a 1-ounce metal jigger, filled just below the half-ounce line with grenadine.

An important part of doing R&D with any cocktail is judging how a drink tastes when it’s first served and at its freshest, as well as how it sits over time. When a cocktail has just been shaken or stirred the ingredients are fully incorporated, the desired amount of aeration or viscosity has been achieved, and the cocktail is at its ideal temperature for its serve. But how will that drink taste as it sits and warms?

Shaken drinks served up like the Scofflaw will warm and fall apart over time. The warmer the temperature, the more the palate can perceive sweetness and confectionary baking spices. Usually, this means that as sours sit they taste sweeter, but the Scofflaw works a little differently on account of the grenadine. Instead of getting perceptively sweeter, the grenadine’s tartness and astringency make their way to the forefront and counter the sugar.

As for the vermouth, the sweeter it is, the more bitter it tends to be as well. This means that sweet white vermouth is technically more bitter than dry vermouth – it just has more sugar to hide that bitterness. Combining this bitterness with the tartness of grenadine means a Scofflaw made with sweet white vermouth will make for a more bracing cocktail over a longer period of time – a rare feat for a sour served up.

Below you'll find my no-fuss grenadine recipe which requires no heat, takes five minutes to make, and will cost you about half of what you'd spend buying a pre-made grenadine.

Grenadine Recipe


250g fresh pomegranate juice

250g white sugar

25g pomegranate molasses

2.5g orange flower water


Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend at a low/medium speed until the sugar has fully dissolved. Pomegranate juice will aerate aggressively, so blending too hard will create a substantial amount of fluffy foam you'll inevitably have to skim off. Do NOT heat over a flame to emulsify the ingredients or you will oxidize the syrup! [Yields 12oz syrup.]

For best results, buy a pomegranate, seed it, and press the seeds of their juice. Alternatively, you can buy pomegranate juice made without additives, preservatives, or added sugar. Pomegranate molasses, which is more similar to balsamic vinegar than sugarcane molasses, adds a concentrated acidity. Some recipes out there call for acid-adjustment via powdered acids rather than pomegranate molasses, but the goal is the same.

Grenadine should never be heated during preparation, especially if using pasteurized juice. Once you apply heat, you lose those desirable bright, tart flavors and instead get heavy, jammy, stewed fruit notes. A fresh grenadine will pop, but a cooked one will take on a prune/date/raisin flavor and will be more or less indescribable from other preserved or cooked fruits.

Choosing a rye whiskey for the Scofflaw

The most historically accurate version of this cocktail would, unsurprisingly, call for Canadian Club Rye Whisky – this is a prohibition-era cocktail, so Canada was the world’s source for rye whiskey when the Scofflaw was created.

For my tastings, I used both the drier, more herbaceous Old Overholt and the fruitier, spicier Rittenhouse rye whiskies. Two of the bartender’s best friends. I slightly preferred the higher-proof, fruitier Rittenhouse because it laid a stronger, smoother foundation for the bolder, sweeter, and more bitter sweet white style of vermouth.

Wherever you are, I do hope your rye situation is better than Canadian Club, which I find to be soft and nondescript, but don’t sweat it too much if it isn’t. The vermouth and grenadine modifiers will guide the whiskey where it needs to go.

Use big ice

It's easy for this cocktail to fall flat texturally - you can blame a full ounce of vermouth for that. The small amount of citrus used also makes it more difficult to achieve and hold the fluffy texture associated with sours served up.

The Clover Club is another sour with a similar build: 1.5 oz spirit, .5 oz lemon, .5 oz tart fruit syrup, and vermouth. That spec works because gin doesn't carry the same tannic astringency that barrel-aged spirits like rye whiskey often do. The addition of egg white also softens the harsh edges and provides its signature fluffy texture.

To best achieve a satisfying texture in a Scofflaw, I once again recommend you shake it with large format ice. Shaking with large ice creates better aeration, yielding a cocktail with a beautifully aerated mouthfeel and perfectly controlled dilution. This fluffy texture can compensate for the loss of structural sugar.

To salt or not to salt?

First, I'll drop my usual copypasta here for you:

Why are we still pretending salt doesn't make almost everything all humans consume taste better? It only takes a few drops of saline solution to make most cocktails anywhere from marginally to dramatically better. It makes the citrus taste better, helps the grenadine pop, and rounds out the astringent attack associated with whiskey sour cocktails. Blah, blah, blah...

The Scofflaw is an inherently dry cocktail, often bordering on astringent and unbalanced, so a little saline helps smooth things out.

No need to garnish

I've made no secret of my disdain for citrus twist garnishes on shaken sours served up, generally finding them superfluous. The original Scofflaw didn't call for a garnish and I'm happy to keep it that way.

That said, an expressed twist to mist the surface of the finished cocktail with fragrant oil isn't unwelcome. Contemporary recipes will often call for either a lemon or an orange twist – I prefer orange, but both work.

Shaking up default assumptions

Sometimes historically accurate doesn't mean anything and sometimes those old recipes are in need of an update regardless. If the current cocktail canon demands French dry vermouth in a Scofflaw, I suggest you scoff at such law and reach for a blanc or blanco style vermouth instead. Sorry.

Disagree with my findings? Shake your own Scofflaws up and let me know what you think works best! Cheers!

Please send any updates or corrections to


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