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Hercules


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#31 MaxH

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 03:23 PM

Out of curiosity I checked some excellent current and older (printed) sources that describe medicinal herbs, but none mentioned "numatea."

They did mention maté (Ilex paraguayensis) as a source of caffeine and tannin, including 0.2 to 2% caffeine, or 1 to 10g caffeine per pound.

Since caffeine and thujone are convulsive poisons at the same lethal dose level (ancient information, reiterated for example Here), anyone anxious about thujone's health effects might best avoid it. (Or sage, or tea, or coffee, or cola, or chocolate -- I haven't even touched on congener xanthines such as theophylline and theobromine, or congener terpenoids like menthol, thymol, and camphor -- it's a dangerous world out there ...) :wink:

#32 jmfangio

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 10:17 PM

I picked up some loose leaf Yerba Mate from a local health food store yesterday, and just brewed myself a cup as I plan to be up late to watch the Chinese Grand Prix (if there are any other F1 fans on this board, I'm rooting for Lewis Hamilton).

I quite like the taste; as the Wikipedia entry describes it, not unlike green tea, with a slightly grassy flavor to it.

Where to start on trying it in a cocktail? I'm thinking either the Cota or the Hercules, as they're the simplest recipes, and doing it a little ass backwards, by infusing it in a little gin (I'm figuring that it'll be easier to gauge the infusion by working with a clear spirit) and see how the Yerba Mate flavor works in the drink.
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#33 eje

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Posted 18 January 2008 - 05:06 PM

I had a bottle of Dubonnet Rouge a bit past its prime in the fridge, so I did a bit of an experiment.

In 1/2 cup vodka, I soaked 1 heaping teaspoon of Yerba-Mate, 1 teaspoon crushed anise seed, 1 teaspoon crushed fennel, and 1 crushed star anise. Let that steep for a few hours and then filtered and added it to a half a bottle of Dubonnet Rouge.

The Yerba Mate does remind me of Green Tea. More the kind from China that can be a bit smoky/grassy. Dragonwell or Gunpowder.

Anyway, it's not horrible, kind of tasty really. I think I overdid it a bit on the fennel, as it is reminding me a bit too much of Italian Sausage.

Angler Cocktail

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.
2 Dashes Orange Bitters.
1/3 Hercules. (3/4 oz Spiced Dubonnet)
2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Beefeater Gin)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. (Squeeze lemon peel.)

Revisited the Angler Cocktail and found it fairly enjoyable. I'm still finding the Dubonnet Rouge, as I always do, a bit insipid. Maybe some wine syrup, port wine, or citrus to jazz it up?
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#34 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 19 January 2008 - 08:45 AM

Dang you beat me to it; I was going to attempt something similar with good ol' M&R but hadn't had the opportunity yet. Stay tuned.
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#35 bostonapothecary

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Posted 19 January 2008 - 11:47 AM

Dang you beat me to it; I was going to attempt something similar with good ol' M&R but hadn't had the opportunity yet. Stay tuned.

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i just bought a pound of yerba mate, and i've just heard of a new higher grade for use in espresso decks... been hatching a plan for a while but i'm looking for just the right wine... stay tuned...

maybe i will fortify it with aguardiente to pay respects to south america?
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#36 lostmyshape

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Posted 19 January 2008 - 04:48 PM

this is all very interesting, as i love yerba-mate. it's great when i want a caffiene kick without the acidity of coffee. it seems like a great addition to an alcoholic beverage and i'm not supprised that it was incorporated with wine (or, as it looks, a quinquina). the flavors would seem to go well in those.

eje, any reason that you added the stuff in addition to the mate (the anise, fennel, etc.)? what suggested that to you? i also have an old half-bottle of dubonnet in the fridge (how long should i expect that stuff to last?).

might try some experiments. i'll report back.

#37 eje

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Posted 19 January 2008 - 05:10 PM

[...]
eje, any reason that you added the stuff in addition to the mate (the anise, fennel, etc.)?  what suggested that to you?  i also have an old half-bottle of dubonnet in the fridge (how long should i expect that stuff to last?).

might try some experiments.  i'll report back.

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We still have no real idea of what spices or herbs, beyond the Yerba-Mate, might have been used to flavor Hercules. Heck, unless an unopened bottle turns up or someone finds a description of the flavor, we'll probably never know. As the Yerba-Mate is pretty mild in flavor, I don't think it would have been the only spice.

The initial assumption, based on the "Jones' Complete Bar Guide" ingredient entry, was that Hercules was an Absinthe substitute, perhaps wine based. It's still the only glossary type reference I've found for it, and Stan Jones was pretty thorough in his documentation of cocktail ingredients and spirits. The spices I used are often, in addition to Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium,) used to flavor Absinthe.

Edited by eje, 19 January 2008 - 05:23 PM.

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#38 hannnah

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Posted 19 January 2008 - 05:47 PM

I ran across a significantly larger ad for Hercules in another edition of the Strand that I haven't had a chance to scan yet; I think it may have been more descriptive than the other two. It'll be Tuesday before I'm back in the office, but I'll post it as soon as I can.
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#39 hannnah

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Posted 25 January 2008 - 09:40 AM

Okay, after several days of combing through the volume on my desk, it would appear that I either dreamed or hallucinated that the larger, more detailed ad in the Strand existed, because I can't find it again. I did find one in the Times, also from 1927, but it's remarkably nonspecific.

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#40 eje

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 04:54 PM

eGullet member jazzyjeff PMd me to say he'd uncovered some clues about Hercules.

Did a little more research into this mystery ingredient but found nothing amazing.
I spoke to a friend who knows Peter Dorelli, the former head bartender of the Savoy, very well. I asked him to find out what he could.
Peter had never tasted the ingredient but called his former head bartender, Joe Gilmore, who is now around 85!
He remembered Hercules quite well and described it as a cross between an aperitif and a bitters. It was light pink in colour and bore no resemblance to Absinthe. He didn't have any real suggestions for a substitute but mentioned Dubonnet would not be appropriate.
Not conclusive but quite interesting.


Well, I'd say that is both pretty interesting and amazing!

I guess that's the nail in the coffin of the Absinthe substitute idea. Also, "pink" makes it sound like it might have been on a white wine rather than red wine base.
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#41 bostonapothecary

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 05:04 PM

eGullet member jazzyjeff PMd me to say he'd uncovered some clues about Hercules.

Did a little more research into this mystery ingredient but found nothing amazing.
I spoke to a friend who knows Peter Dorelli, the former head bartender of the Savoy, very well. I asked him to find out what he could.
Peter had never tasted the ingredient but called his former head bartender, Joe Gilmore, who is now around 85!
He remembered Hercules quite well and described it as a cross between an aperitif and a bitters. It was light pink in colour and bore no resemblance to Absinthe. He didn't have any real suggestions for a substitute but mentioned Dubonnet would not be appropriate.
Not conclusive but quite interesting.


Well, I'd say that is both pretty interesting and amazing!

I guess that's the nail in the coffin of the Absinthe substitute idea. Also, "pink" makes it sound like it might have been on a white wine rather than red wine base.

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wow, thats interesting. i think we need to come up with a list of questions for that guy to answer... if it was pink it could have easily gotten colored with a dye... i don't know anything other than barolo chinato that actually uses red wine... most everything is white and caramel...
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#42 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 02:02 AM

A mixture of Lillet (or Americano) and Peychaud's bitters? I cant help but think that there must have been some sort of anise characterstics, however subtle, for it to be misremembered as an absinthe sub.
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#43 hannnah

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 07:28 AM

I knew I'd seen a more detailed ad somewhere that I couldn't find again; now that the Times has beefed up their archive, look what turned up (this one's dated April 21, 1928). Interestingly, it mentions quite a few other products similar to Hercules that must not have been quite as good for mixing, although the "Matruby" (which is presumably a ruby port version) sounds awfully interesting.

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#44 bostonapothecary

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 09:51 AM

I knew I'd seen a more detailed ad somewhere that I couldn't find again; now that the Times has beefed up their archive, look what turned up (this one's dated April 21, 1928).  Interestingly, it mentions quite a few other products similar to Hercules that must not have been quite as good for mixing, although the "Matruby" (which is presumably a ruby port version) sounds awfully interesting. 

Posted Image

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its a interesting document but it doesn't describe any flavor acompaniments... i still vote for peppermint...
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#45 The Drinkist

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 09:15 PM

I'm a latecomer to this thread, so I'm sure everyone has already pondered this point, but we keep seeing E&F Newell as the sole producers of Hercules and, in the last ad, see that they also had a non-alcoholic "Cordon Speciale." Isn't it possible that a product originally known as something like "Newell's Mate" (probably the non-alcoholic version) could become something like "Numatea" in common usage pretty quickly, especially to a culture disposed to thinking of herbal beverages as "tea"? (So not purely coincidence that mate is contained in Numatea.)

It would make sense then for Numatea, i.e. mate, to be known as a "soothing beverage" and only natural if that product was popular to market the alcoholic version as a Numatea Aperitif. Pure speculation, I know, and not much use in getting closer to what the actual formula might have been, but might help explain the Numatea references.
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#46 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 09:21 PM

I just had a thought and am not sure if this has been addressed: Was Hercules ever popular or even available in the US? I guess if not that would go a long way towards explaining the lack of info on it. Perhaps it's popularity had almost completely waned by the repeal of Prohibition.

Edited by thirtyoneknots, 25 June 2008 - 09:22 PM.

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#47 jmfangio

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 06:13 PM

I just had a thought and am not sure if this has been addressed: Was Hercules ever popular or even available in the US? I guess if not that would go a long way towards explaining the lack of info on it. Perhaps it's popularity had almost completely waned by the repeal of Prohibition.

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For that matter, do we have any idea if was popular or available outside of the UK? Does it appear in any cocktail books other than The Savoy?
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#48 hannnah

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 01:58 PM

I just had a thought and am not sure if this has been addressed: Was Hercules ever popular or even available in the US? I guess if not that would go a long way towards explaining the lack of info on it. Perhaps it's popularity had almost completely waned by the repeal of Prohibition.

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That, unfortunately, is going to be a much harder question to answer. None of the early 20th century US Customs records have been digitized, so finding out is going to involve an awful lot of legwork; the records themselves live at the National Archives locations in DC and Maryland, Philadelphia, and the Boston area, and it's anyone's guess as to which of the East Coast ports the stuff might have come into, assuming it was imported at all.

There's not significantly more available online going the other way; the vast majority of the digitized content on ships leaving the UK deals with people rather than goods. Our best bet there might be the Guildhall Library, which is within spitting distance of Newall's listed address in the City of London - they have a pretty substantive manuscript collection.

I don't suppose we have any lurkers who work at NARA or in the City who'd be willing to pop in and see what they can find? :laugh:
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#49 Splificator

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 03:18 PM

From "Cheerio"--a Book of Punches and Cocktails: How to Mix Them, by Charles, formerly of Delmonicos [sic] (NY: Elf, 1930).

p. 45, from the "Celebrities' Drinks" chapter

KARL K. KITCHEN, Broadway's favorite colyumnist [sic].
    "My good friend, Harry Craddock, bartender of the Savoy Hotel in London, and dean of all bartenders, braced me up like a new-born infant with a new cocktail he invented for me on the spur of the moment. It is called a 'Hercules,' half gin and half Mati, the Mati coming from Mexico."


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#50 Splificator

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 05:25 AM

I just had a thought and am not sure if this has been addressed: Was Hercules ever popular or even available in the US? I guess if not that would go a long way towards explaining the lack of info on it. Perhaps it's popularity had almost completely waned by the repeal of Prohibition.

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Another find in the archives.

The Syracuse Herald, December 7, 1934

A New Sensational Drink
"HERCULES"
'The Nectar of the Gods'
A Delicious Aperitif
$3.00 Fifth    Introductory Price


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#51 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 09:20 AM

In 75 years will people have as much trouble pinning down just exactly what Pama or Hypnotiq were?
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#52 eje

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 09:46 AM

In 75 years will people have as much trouble pinning down just exactly what Pama or Hypnotiq were?

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haha! There are already cocktail ingredients in Regan's "New Classic Cocktails" with flavored vodkas I have no idea about.

Two most recent attempts at Hercules:

Hercules #1

1 bottle Navarro White Table Wine
1/4 cup Yerba Mate
1 tablespoon Gentian
1 clove
Dried Peel from 1 Seville Orange
1/2 stick Ceylon Cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Havana Club 8 Year Rum

Method: Combine all ingredients other than rum, bring to 140 degrees for 10 minutes. Strain off solids, cool, and add rum. Refrigerate.

Interesting, but the bitterness is too prominent and single notedly gentian.

Hercules #2

1 bottle Navarro Chardonnay
1/4 cup Yerba Mate
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp Gentian
2 tsp Cinchona Powder
1/2 tsp Wormwood flowers and leaves
4 whole cloves
Dried Peel from 1 Seville Orange
1 stick Ceylon Cinnamon
1/2 tsp whole coriander seed
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Apple Brandy

Method: Combine all ingredients other than brandy, bring to 140 degrees for 10 minutes. Strain off solids, cool, and add Brandy. Refrigerate.

Too bitter probably, though closer to a balanced flavor. Would like an even heavier spice presence.
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#53 eje

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Posted 17 May 2009 - 09:11 AM

The general consensus was Hercules #2 was too bitter and would be better with a stronger spice component. I also thought it would benefit from a richer wine base. This version attempts to address those issues.

Hercules #3

1 Stick Cassia Cinnamon, crushed
2 tsp. Coriander Seed, crushed
8 Whole Cloves, crushed
1 tsp. Quinine Powder
1 tsp Gentian Root
1/4 Cup Yerba Mate
1 bag peppermint tea
Rind 2 Seville Oranges
Rind 1/2 Valencia Orange
1/2 cup Raw Sugar
750ml Quady Elektra Orange Muscat
1/4 cup Osocalis Brandy

METHOD: Combine spices, peel, yerba mate and wine. Heat to 140 degrees. Add mint and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Filter through chinois and add Brandy. Let stand for at least a day. Pour liquid off of sediment through coffee filter.
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#54 bostonapothecary

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Posted 17 May 2009 - 12:22 PM

The general consensus was Hercules #2 was too bitter and would be better with a stronger spice component.  I also thought it would benefit from a richer wine base.  This version attempts to address those issues.

Hercules #3

1 Stick Cassia Cinnamon, crushed
2 tsp. Coriander Seed, crushed
8 Whole Cloves, crushed
1 tsp. Quinine Powder
1 tsp Gentian Root
1/4 Cup Yerba Mate
1 bag peppermint tea
Rind 2 Seville Oranges
Rind 1/2 Valencia Orange
1/2 cup Raw Sugar
750ml Quady Elektra Orange Muscat
1/4 cup Osocalis Brandy

METHOD: Combine spices, peel, yerba mate and wine.  Heat to 140 degrees.  Add mint and allow to steep for 15 minutes.  Filter through chinois and add Brandy.  Let stand for at least a day.  Pour liquid off of sediment through coffee filter.

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nice addition of peppermint.
i wonder how orange-y everything is gonna turn out. many rustic creole shrubb recipes use the peel of three sour oranges and then you have the tonal effect of the wine base. i've also found that cloves are more potent than i ever estimate. sugar really enlivens them. i've gotten to a point where i only add them one at a time.

good luck!
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