Pegu Club Cocktail

First, I suppose I should point out that Doug, over at The Pegu Blog, writes pretty much about nothing other than Pegu Club Cocktails.  So if you need more information about the cocktail, you might want to check out his ruminations on the subject.

Searching through Google Books, I found a couple references.

From a 1971 article in the Atlantic by Paul Theroux:


“On Bogyoke Aung San Street (formerly Montgomery) the Central Jail is being pulled down. The workmen were surprised to get a visitor and willingly showed me around the six enormous cell blocks which radiate in clumsy spokes from a central courtyard and administration building. They pointed out scratchings on the cell floors made in the teak planks by bored prisoners, the Burmese equivalent of tic-tac-toe. One man told me the place was one hundred seven years old—the seven gave the date a certain credibility; in fact, I couldn’t imagine the Burmese pulling down a building less than a hundred years old. The only market in Mandalay is the Zegyo Bazaar, designed and built in 1903 by an Italian, Count Caldrari (who was also the first secretary of the Mandalay Municipality). I stole a small sign from over a cell door in the Central Jail. It reads: 56′ BY 26½’ BY 12’—CUBICAL CONTENTS 17967—ACCOMMODATION FOR 28. It is only a short hop from the Central Jail to the Pegu Club, now an Officers’ Mess of the Burmese Army. The Pegu Club was to Rangoon what the Selangor Club was to Kuala Lumpur and the Tanglin Club to Singapore (but these two are still going strong). The sentry said that he would have let me look around, but as it happened, a senior officer (the sentry bulged his eyes to illustrate how senior) had just arrived and was inside.”

Rudyard Kipling in his 1899 book, “From Sea to Sea”:

The River of the Lost Footsteps and the Golden Mystery upon its Banks. Shows how a Man may go to the Shway Dagon Pagoda and see it not and to the Pegu Club and hear too much. A Dissertation on Mixed Drinks.

“There must be a few hundred men who are fairly behind the scenes of the Burma War—one of the least known and appreciated of any of our little affairs. The Pegu Club seemed to be full of men on their way up or down, and the conversation was but an echo of the murmur of conquest far away to the north.”

Pegu Club, Savoy

Pegu Club Cocktail
1 Dash Angostura Bitters.
1 Dash Orange Bitters. (Angostura Orange Bitters)
1 Teaspoonful Lime Juice. (1 teaspoon Fresh Lime Juice)
1/3 Curacao. (3/4 oz Bols Dry Orange Curacao)
2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

The favourite cocktail of the Pegu Club, Burma,
and one that has traveled, and is asked for, round the world.

So this is the Savoy recipe for this cocktail. To me, it doesn’t make much sense, from a flavor perspective. The mere teaspoon of lime juice, does very little for the cocktail, to balance against the sweetness of the orange curacao, making it very nearly an after dinner proposition.

Pegu Club, Gimlet Style

The oldest recipe anyone has found, at the moment, is from an edition of Harry’s ABC of Cocktails from 1929.  It is as follows: 1 dash Angostura Bitters; 1 dash of Orange Bitters; 1 teaspoonful of Lime Juice (Rose’s); 1/6 Curacao; 2/3 Gin.

Ack!  Though he does slightly reduce the volume of Curacao, he calls for Rose’s Lime Juice!

Well, what are you gonna do.  The Rose’s got me thinking of Gimlets, so I gimlet-i-fied the cocktail, serving it over ice.  You know what, it’s not bad!

Pegu Club, Jimmy's

One of the other pre-Savoy citations for the Pegu Club Cocktail comes from a book I’ve only heard of in quotes from David Wondrich, “Cocktails by Jimmy, Late of Ciro’s”  Its recipe follows:

Pegu Club
4 parts Dry Gin. (2 oz Gin)
1 part Curacao. (1/2 oz Curacao)
1 part Lime Juice. (1/2 oz Lime Juice)
1 Dash Angostura Bitters per cocktail.
1 Dash Orange Bitters per cocktail. (Angostura Orange Bitters)

This is a very dry cocktail!  Though it has its fans, it is a little too dry and tart for my taste.  At this point, I have to admit I’m also thinking I don’t really like Angostura Orange Bitters in this cocktail.  I like them in Martinis and such, but there’s something in the spice component that just isn’t working for me in a sour.

Pegu Club, Slanted Door

Finally, seeking solace for my frustration, I made the version of the Pegu Club Cocktail from the Heaven’s Dog bar book.  Obviously, I’d have to kill you if I printed it here, but damn that hits the spot.  Save yourself the trouble of the above, and just go out and order the drink at Slanted Door or Heaven’s Dog.  You’ll thank me.

Oh, and if that doesn’t convince you, and you really want to do your extra credit work, I highly recommend the gimlet-i-fied version made with Oude Genever instead of Dry Gin. Not at all traditional, but super tasty!

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

8 thoughts on “Pegu Club Cocktail

  1. Ahh, long have I waited for you to reach this point, Grasshopper….

    Anyway, I agree with the Cocktails by Jimmy version, though I use a 3-1 ratio instead of four. I also omit the orange bitters is all versions. To me it is discordant in the drink, and I can believe your generalization that it would be the case with sours overall.

    Oh, and it’s was April the last time I did a post about Pegus! That is about to change however….

  2. I love the last shot, where one can see Monty in the background, looking up longingly at the cocktail…

  3. Pingback: Underhill-Lounge » Quarter Deck Cocktail

  4. I would give this drink another try with the new Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao. I just did…it turns from something horrid and overly sweet to a very well balanced cocktail.

  5. Interesting item. I have just returned from Rangoon where a special visit to the Strand Hotel for a PCC was planed. The (65 year old) bar “boy” took the order, without comment, it turned out he had worked with the last Club Barman! But he substituted Red Martini for Bitters ?
    Two drinks later the four of us were poured into a taxi. Our useless local guide told me the club had been demolished so we didn’t see it. But we took the traditional Irrawaddy flotilla, 3 Deck “Orient Pandaw II” up the Irrawaddy from Prom to Mandalay. (give the Orient Express boat a miss) & 4:30 became Pagu Cub time, which was very much appreciated by all on board.

      • This is a bit of a blast from the past. Yes, you are correct on the bitters sub.
        But now a new project for you.
        The PCC was such a hit I have now been elected to provide a new drink for an up coming trip to Hanoi, Saigon, & then up the Mekong.
        I have searched & searched but can find nothing that gels. I was looking for something French but would also consider something that US forces’ were into during the war with the VC. (I worked with many at SHAPE in Belgium in the 1970’s). Whatever you can think of needs a story!

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