Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Mixology, Vol. 7: The Colonial Cooler.

Posted on: June 4, 2010

After a week in Venice and Northern Italy picking up some very cool bottles, Frontier Mixology is back with a post that’s not about Harry’s Bar or Bellini’s, both of which are overrated incidentally.

Instead, this week’s post is about… colonialism? Don’t worry, we won’t be delving into any Marxist critiques of capitalist power dynamics. Rather, let’s dive into one of the few good things colonialism did give us: a specific cocktail legacy. Washed up colonials in tropical outposts developed (or had developed for them) some pretty wonderful drinks when they weren’t too busy exploiting the people and natural resources of their imperial possessions.

In addition to drowning with booze the cognitive dissonance required of their existence, colonial officials also had a lot of time to drink, with long afternoons and evenings spent in clubs, biding time in some remote location. New York’s Pegu Club, for example, is named after a famous officers club in Rangoon. Indeed, there are many well-known drinks derived from thirsty Brits in hot places: from the ubiquitous and purportedly anti-malarial gin and tonic to the baroque excess of the Singapore Sling, first served at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore and, in some recipes, involving nine ingredients. The focus of this post, however, is a lesser-known drink originally from the Sandakan Club in British North Borneo (pictured).

It comes to us from a source a bit more local and a bit more extant… Fort Defiance, a restaurant in Red Hook, Brooklyn. If you haven’t been, you should definitely check it out: great drinks, great coffee, and a deservedly-ballyhooed muffaletta sandwich. The drink in question is the Colonial Cooler, published by Fort Definance’s owner St. John Frizell in Imbibe! Magazine, and adapted from a recipe of 1930s cocktail and travel legend Charles H. Baker, Jr.

Colonial Cooler

1½ oz. gin
1½ oz. sweet vermouth (if you have several kinds, you can try mixing them half-and-half)
1 teaspoon Cointreau
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
soda water

In an ice-filled highball glass, mix all the ingredients except the soda water; top with soda water to fill; stir two times; garnish with sprig of mint and slice of pineapple.

This is the first “long” cocktail, i.e. with soda water or other mixer, featured in Frontier Mixology, but with Memorial (née Decoration) Day now past, a lighter, more refreshing drink seems appropriate. Make sure to use the best, largest ice cubes you can so as not to dilute the drink too much as you sip it on the veranda. With the East Coast now getting almost as steamy as the Malay peninsula, it’s high time to enjoy a colonial cooler, minus the exploitation and racial superiority please.

Drink up,


1 Response to "Frontier Mixology, Vol. 7: The Colonial Cooler."

[…] is good mix of new and old drinks — all of which are well-made.  I’m told that the Colonial Cooler will soon be back on the menu, too.  Ordering off the menu, however, depends a bit more on […]

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