Origin of the Clover Club Cocktail
The Clover Club cocktail is a long lost delight. As cocktail bars gradually expand their service of classic drinks beyond Old Fashioned's and Sazeracs, this beautiful beverage is beginning to blossom again - and once you taste one, you'll know why.
In it's heyday the Clover Club was the preferred drink of pre-Prohibition gentlemen. It emerged from a Philadelphia men's group called (you guessed it) the Clover Club that met regularly at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel from the 1880's to the 1920's. The Clover Club cocktail was likely concocted around the turn of the century, and at first exclusively imbibed by club members: men in legal, literary, or business professions. When the hotelier of the Bellevue-Stratford, George Boldt, was recruited as proprietor for the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the Clover Club cocktail made its way to New York.
The Rise and Decline of the Clover Club Cocktail
The first Clover Club Cocktail Recipe was published in the New York Press in 1901, calling for gin, lemon juice, sugar, raspberry syrup, and egg white. People went crazy for it. But by the 1950's it had fallen out of favor with men in dark leather booths surrounded by oak panelling. The Clover Club became a "ladies drink," and was quickly displaced by the Pink Lady (a rather derivative name, don't you think?); essentially a Clover Club plus applejack that delivers a bigger kick.
And then the dark era for craft cocktails: When bottled mixers, and soda guns reigned behind the bar, and the only fresh thing you could find were a few lime wedges used to garnish a magarita-mix margarita. When you think about it, it's no wonder cocktails like the Clover Club nearly vanished. When a whiskey sour is made with a package of Instant Whiskey Sour Mix instead of fresh lemon juice, there's no room in the inventory for raspberries or fresh eggs.
And still, delightful fizzes and flips that call for fresh eggs are passed over prejudicially on cocktail menus by patrons. It's a tough road to climb for classic cocktails like the Clover Club, but we hope you'll join us on the cheerleading side, and give this sublime cocktail a shot. She's worth it.
How to Make a Clover Club Cocktail
Here's a quick one-minute video that gives you a beautiful introduction on how to make the Clover Club Cocktail at home:
For years I knew about the Clover Club Cocktail, and didn't make one at home because it called for raspberry syrup. In hindsight, I reprimand myself for not making the effort, because now I'll make it regularly, especially when entertaining guests.
We had some friends over and made the lady a Clover Club first - after sipping it, her gentleman insisted on having one also. The Clover Club cocktail is a light, fresh, beautifully balanced drink that's also stunning to behold. You can bet it will spread through your guests hands during an evening of imbibing, until everyone has had the pleasure of the Clover Club experience.
There are quite a few variations of the Clover Club Cocktail published in cocktail books and online, and after testing all of them, we prefer the one Jeffrey Morganthaler published in The Bar Book
- 1.5 oz gin
- 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 oz raspberry syrup (see recipe below)
- 1/2 oz fresh egg white
- Jigger or Measurer
- Shaker (boston or cobbler shaker)
- Hawthorne or Julep Strainer
- Coupe Cocktail Glass
- Combine all ingredients in a shaker and dry shake for at least 10 seconds (shake it without adding ice). Dry-shaking cocktails containing egg whites gives you more shaking time to build froth without over-diluting your cocktail. And part of the joy of the Clover Club cocktail is that beautiful, foamy top.
- Add ice, shake to chill and dilute
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass (for this recipe, skip the double-straining to keep more of that fluffy foam).
- Traditionally the Clover Club has no garnish, but if you're feeling fancy, a delicate lemon twist is an aromatically stupendous addition.
Making Egg Whites Manageable: If you have trouble separating the egg white to include just 1/2 oz (and likely you will), beat it lightly with a fork to break it up first.
Using Raw Eggs in Cocktails: We recommend using fresh eggs if you can get them from a backyard coop or farmers market. The fresher the egg, the better, especially if you want a nice foamy head on your cocktail.
If you're really worried about salmonella, you can buy pasteurized eggs or egg whites. These have been treated to destroy salmonella either by in-shell-pasteurization or as a pasteurized egg white product (all packaged egg-white products are required to undergo pasteurization, and are thus treated to eliminate any potential for salmonella). The pasteurization process involves heating the eggs just enough to destroy salmonella if it is present, but not enough to cook the eggs. It does affect both the flavor of the egg (less important in cocktail preparations - more noticeable when eating an omelette) and the texture. You may not be able to get as frothy of a whip out of pasteurized eggs, but they're a good compromise if you're overly concerned about using raw eggs.
See below for substitutions for raspberry syrup. We recommend using fresh raspberries (either by themselves or made into syrup) for the best flavor, but frozen can work as well. Syrup is an easy way to prep ahead of time if you plan on making more than one or two Clover Club cocktails, but different situations call for different solutions, so here you go!
Raspberry: Three Ways
We highly recommend making raspberry syrup for this cocktail. It does take a bit more prep, but can be done ahead of time. The syrup captures the flavor of fresh raspberries in a mouthwatering way, and makes drink service easy (and easy to clean), especially when preparing multiple cocktails in one evening.
And if you're entertaining with several cocktail choices on a menu, expect that once the first guest receives their Clover Club, you'll get a lot of copycat orders from jealous onlookers - so prepare to make a lot.
Making Raspberry Syrup for the Clover Club Cocktail:
- 2 cups fresh or (good quality) frozen raspberries
- 8 oz water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
Simmer raspberries in water in a small saucepan until the juice has been drawn from the berries (you'll know this because the water and berries turn the same color), about 5-10 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer, pressing berries to extract the juice.
Morganthaler suggests straining a second time through a coffee strainer, and we found this to be a bit laborious (and time consumptive). If you have a super-fine metal strainer, that should remove most of the pulp but the finest particles; cheesecloth will also work well. While the liquid is still hot, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Let the raspberry syrup cool. It will last up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
As I mentioned, the raspberry syrup was a winner in my book.
But because it's infuriating for me to only be given one option when I can guess that substitutions might work, here are two other ways to infuse your Clover Club Cocktail with its signature raspberry flavor:
Substitution: Use Fresh Raspberries
Just whipping up a Clover Cocktail for yourself, and want to cut out the syrup step? No problem. Use fresh raspberries, and increase the sugar. Here's the modified recipe:
- 1.5 oz gin
- 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz fresh egg white
- 6 raspberries
- 1/4 oz superfine sugar or simple syrup
- Muddle the raspberries with the sugar and lemon juice, then add the egg white and gin.
- Dry shake for at least 10 seconds (longer is better with this preparation to build up as much foam as possible, as you'll leave some behind when you double-strain to separate the whole berries from the finished cocktail)
- Add ice and shake to chill and dilute
- Double-strain (use a hawthorne strainer or cobbler shaker, AND a fine tea strainer) into a chilled cocktail coupe.
Substitution: Use Raspberry Preserves
You may miss some of that fresh raspberry flavor, but if raspberries are out of season or too much trouble, keep a jar of raspberry preserves on hand for a quick Clover Club cocktail whenever your fancy strikes.
This recipe is what the New York cocktail lounge PDT serves. It uses more gin and a whole egg white (about 3/4 - 1 oz, depending on the size of the egg), so it's a bigger recipe, but that means it'll last a little longer too ;) If it's a little sweet the first time you make it, feel free to cut back on the simple syrup a bit.
- 2 oz gin
- 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 1 barspoon raspberry preserves (Bonne Madam)
- 1 fresh egg white
Note: This recipe calls for Bonne Madam Raspberry Preserves, which I heartily agree with. These preserves use no artificial components - just simple ingredients: raspberries, sugar, lemon juice, and fruit pectin. Look for a raspberry jam or preserve that keeps things simple (no corn syrup please!), or your Clover Club flavor will suffer.
And yet another variation: Vermouth
It's worth noting that though the original recipe printed in 1901 is essentially the same as those we've offered above, in 1909 Paul Lowe included the Clover Club in his book Drinks: How to Mix and Serve, suggesting splitting the spirit base between gin and french vermouth. David Wondrich observes that this "turns a serviceable drink into an ambrosial one," and it certainly warrants a side-by-side comparison.
We tried it, and the vermouth does add another layer of depth and viscosity, so we recommend that if you've got a stocked bar, try the vermouth version yourself and see what you like best. Just use 3/4 oz gin and 3/4 oz dry vermouth (we recommend Dolin, or something above your basic Martini & Rossi brand).
The Clover Club Cocktail Bar in Brooklyn, New York (named after this divine drink) uses vermouth in their recipe, which is something to consider. For my part, whatever gets you behind the bar, enjoying the ritual of making cocktails - do that, be merry, and venture on!
- 1.5 oz Gin (we recommend a London Dry Gin like Beefeater)
- 0.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- 0.75 oz Raspberry Syrup (see below for recipe)
- 0.5 oz Fresh Egg White