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thirtyoneknots

Hercules

54 posts in this topic

Moderator Note, this discussion split from the Stomping Through the Savoy topic.

gallery_27569_3038_19022.jpg

Cota Cocktail

1/4 Hercules. (3/4 oz Cocchi Barolo Chinato)

1/4 Cointreau. (3/4 oz Cointreau)

1/2 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Bombay Gin)

Shake (stir - eje) well and strain into cocktail glass.

The ingredient Hercules continues to confound.

Cocktaildb's ingredient database (and the Jones' Bar Guide) suggest it is an Absinthe substitute.  However, making these cocktails with any modern Absinthe substitutes, they turn out to be rather horribly balanced.  They are usually OK, if I reduce the Absinthe substitute to a dash.

Sometimes when I visit the Cocktaildb home page (and I do quite often) one of the random pictures that shows up is what appears to be a label or advertisement in dutch for something that appears to be called "Hercules".

Hercules Advert?

I don't know Dutch; but, the words like "Versterkende Bloedwijn" and  "Kina Wijn" on the advertisement suggest it is for some sort of red wine based Quinquina.

Knowing that 3/4 oz Pastis, 3/4 oz Cointreau, and 1 1/2 oz Gin is going to be pretty undrinkable, I decided to experiment with a couple of the red wine Quinquinas I had around.  The first try, with Byrrh Assemblage, was pretty lackluster. 

Even though I suspect it is fairly unrelated to the intended Savoy "Cota Cocktail", the formula above, with the Barolo Chinato, was actually quite delicious.  Similar to a slightly sweeter and orangier Negroni.  Maybe call it the "Coda Cocktail"?

If anyone has any thoughts about a more appropriate Hercules substitution, please let me know.

Had sort of an "ah-hah!" moment today while rereading the earlier part of this thread looking for something unrelated.

The Ante Cocktail as it appears in the Savoy:

Ante Cocktail

1 Dash Angostura Bitters

1/4 Hercules (1/2 oz Henri Bardouin Pastis)

1/4 Cointreau (1/2 oz Cointreau)

1/2 Calvados or Apple Brandy (1 oz Laird's Apple Brandy)

The Ante Cocktail as it appears on Cocktail Chronicles and Drinkboy.com:

Ante

1 1/4 ounce Calvados

1/2 ounce Dubonnet rouge

1/4 ounce Cointreau

dash Angostura

So then it appears that somewhere along the way Dubonnet Rouge became the common sub for Hercules as that product slid into obscurity (presumably originally done by people who had tasted both of them). Similar, I suppose, to how different brands of bitters were subbed in as the available number of them dwindled. Maybe not case closed, but I think this, along with the ad from CocktailDB, is enough good circumstantial evidence to recommend Dubonnet or other red quinquina as a Hercules substitute.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I asked Mr. Wondrich about Hercules, (hopefully he won't mind me posting this!) and he replied:

According to an ad I have for it (ca. 1928), it was "the Nectar of the Gods." At any rate, it was produced by E & F Newall, Ltd, London, who billed it as an "energizing numatea aperitif" and bottled it at "strength n. e. 42 [degrees] proof spirit" (I'm not sure what that "n.e." means there unless it's "not exceeding," but at any rate that would be alcohol by weight, not by volume). What a "numatea aperitif" is, I do not know.

    In any case, I don't think it was an absinthe substitute, but neither does it appear to be a fortified wine, not at that proof.  A mystery (try looking up "numatea" or "numa tea"; ugh).

I suppose it is also possible that there was more than one beverage called Hercules, as that ad on the cocktaildb does really appear to be for a Dutch Quinquina.

Searching for Numa Tea and/or Numatea didn't reveal much.

The word "Numa" appears in the name of a popular online video, really skewing google results.

I think it means something like "world" in anglicized Indian.

Appears to be a place name in anglicized Japanese.

It also was a name of the legendary second king of Rome, Numa

Pompilius. Instituted Vestal Virgins, etc.


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I asked Mr. Wondrich about Hercules, (hopefully he won't mind me posting this!) and he replied:
According to an ad I have for it (ca. 1928), it was "the Nectar of the Gods." At any rate, it was produced by E & F Newall, Ltd, London, who billed it as an "energizing numatea aperitif" and bottled it at "strength n. e. 42 [degrees] proof spirit" (I'm not sure what that "n.e." means there unless it's "not exceeding," but at any rate that would be alcohol by weight, not by volume). What a "numatea aperitif" is, I do not know.

    In any case, I don't think it was an absinthe substitute, but neither does it appear to be a fortified wine, not at that proof.  A mystery (try looking up "numatea" or "numa tea"; ugh).

I suppose it is also possible that there was more than one beverage called Hercules, as that ad on the cocktaildb does really appear to be for a Dutch Quinquina.

Searching for Numa Tea and/or Numatea didn't reveal much.

The word "Numa" appears in the name of a popular online video, really skewing google results.

I think it means something like "world" in anglicized Indian.

Appears to be a place name in anglicized Japanese.

It also was a name of the legendary second king of Rome, Numa

Pompilius. Instituted Vestal Virgins, etc.

that hercules stuff gets cooler by the minute...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

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42 degrees proof, or 21% alcohol by weight does not seem unreasonable for a fortified wine. Port regularly achieves 20% abv. When you get into lower proofs like that with ingredients intended for mixing, a somewhat peculiar grey area appears. Cynar, for example, is only 15-16% abv, barely above some table wines. I have never heard anything to indicate that it is in fact wine-based, and yet it sometimes displays attributes similar to high-end vermouths like Punt e Mes, mixing-wise. So was Hercules a high-proof fortified wine or a low proof aperitif spirit? Maybe we'll never know. I still think that red quinquinas are a good bet for most appropriate substitute though, given what we know.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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42 degrees proof, or 21% alcohol by weight does not seem unreasonable for a fortified wine. Port regularly achieves 20% abv. When you get into lower proofs like that with ingredients intended for mixing, a somewhat peculiar grey area appears. Cynar, for example, is only 15-16% abv, barely above some table wines. I have never heard anything to indicate that it is in fact wine-based, and yet it sometimes displays attributes similar to high-end vermouths like Punt e Mes, mixing-wise. So was Hercules a high-proof fortified wine or a low proof aperitif spirit? Maybe we'll never know. I still think that red quinquinas are a good bet for most appropriate substitute though, given what we know.

-Andy

This would actually be British (Sykes) proof, which was generally expressed as degrees under (or over) 50, not 100. This makes it a high-proof aperitif spirit (42% abw = roughly 50% abv).


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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re: Hercules

Doing a google book search I find an ad in a 1946 edition of "The Strand Magazine".

Unfortunately, it isn't available fully.

By manipulating the search, I can get the following excerpts:

HERCULES "HEALTH - COCKTAILS ARE SERVED AT LEADING BARS. "Hercules" can be had plain, when so preferred, or as the chief and most fascinating ingredient...that Create Appetite and Stimulate Digestion "Hercules" Wine Aperitif contains the phenomenal properties of Yerba-Mate, which has won the high opinion...TO TEST "HERCULES" WINE APERITIF send fi/6 for a full-sired bottle, carriage paid.

We will despatch by return. Later supplies must be obtained of Wine...


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Is it possible that the name Hercules was used for two distinct products? If so it would seem one was vastly more popular/common than the other, or had already become defunct by the time of the Savoy's publication since it never specifies any qualifiers.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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re: Hercules

Doing a google book search I find an ad in a 1946 edition of "The Strand Magazine".

Unfortunately, it isn't available fully.

By manipulating the search, I can get the following excerpts:

HERCULES "HEALTH - COCKTAILS ARE SERVED AT LEADING BARS. "Hercules" can be had plain, when so preferred, or as the chief and most fascinating ingredient...that Create Appetite and Stimulate Digestion "Hercules" Wine Aperitif contains the phenomenal properties of Yerba-Mate, which has won the high opinion...TO TEST "HERCULES" WINE APERITIF send fi/6 for a full-sired bottle, carriage paid.

We will despatch by return. Later supplies must be obtained of Wine...

yerba mate vermouth? sign me up... dry or bianco? and what other flavor notes was it likely to have? seville orange? Starting to sound like jamaican rootsman tonic health drinks... i drink it mainly for the "raw moon bush" and "nerve wisp"

i like the sound of that wormwood and gin... i'd pour some of that over my mawby... or maybe the sweet potato fly...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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So, to summarize what has gone before...

A defunct ingredient called "Hercules" is called for in a dozen cocktails, (Angler, Ante, Cota, Gene Corrie Cocktail, Genevieve Cocktail, Health Cocktail, New Life Cocktail, Personality a La Roy Cocktail, Ramon Newton Cocktail, Volstead Cocktail, Warden Cocktail, Wow Cocktail, and Zed Cocktail,) in the Savoy Cocktail Book.

According to the Stan Jones' "Jones' Complete Bar Guide" and the Cocktaildb ingredient entry it was an "Absinthe Substitute".

After making the Angler and Ante Cocktails with Absinthe substitutes, I began to wonder if indeed is an Absinthe Substitute. While there is no shortage of unbalanced cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail book, these two seemed particularly out of character. They almost worked; but, only if you reduced the amount of Absinthe substitute to a dash.

At the same time, I'd noticed that occaisionally an ad or label for something that appeared to be called "Hercules" (Hercules Advert?) sometimes appeared on the cocktaildb front page. When I examined that tiny ad, I discovered that it appeared to be for some sort of red wine based Quinquina.

When I made the Cota Cocktail I tried it with a couple of red wine based Quinquinas, and found it quite appealing, especially when made with Cocchi's Barolo Chinato.

At that point, I decided to send a note to an expert or two, and ask their opinion.

As you can see from the above, that's about where we are now.


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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One more note, I thought to search for "E & F Newall, Ltd, London" in the ad from the Strand Magazine which turned up in Google Books, and that text showed up in the same ad for "Hercules" which I quoted above.

"Proprs: E. & F. Newall, Ltd., Mate Products, (Dept. 11), 10 Philpot Lane, London, E.C.3."

With the additional quote in the same area of text, "Argentine Gauchos derive much of their remarkable virility from drinking Mate."

Also of note, "The Strand" was, (and is,) quite a famous magazine, notably publishing Arthur Conan Doyle's accounts of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It appears some local libraries may have vintage copies of this magazine, so if I'm lucky I'll be able to track down additional information.


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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can anyone translate the text on the poster eje links to?

its kind of crazy how something like this could get lost in history... are we only talking about 70 years?

i always thought it would be cool to start a forum of 20th century forgotten culture and then try to get elderly people to read it and answer questions.


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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could it have been some sort of pimms-esque bottled cocktail which would explain the high proof and the connection to red wine quinquina and to absinthe?

redwine vermouth spiced with yerba mate

absinthe for good measure

gin

bottle it up...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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The text in the poster appears to be Dutch.

Zuivere Druiven in the upper left hand corner means "pure grapes."

Versterkende Bloedwijn means "fortified bloodwine" -- indications are that Bloedwijn is an older name for a red herbal aperitif wine including cinchona.

Gewaarborgde Zuivere en Versterkende Kinawijn "Kloek" en "Sterk" means "guaranteed pure and fortified kina-wine 'brave' and 'strong'".

That's as much as I can figure out with my limited abilities. All signs point to something like red Dubonnet or Lillet being a good substitute, perhaps with an additional pinch of cinchona.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Also of note, "The Strand" was, (and is,) quite a famous magazine, notably publishing Arthur Conan Doyle's accounts of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  It appears some local libraries may have vintage copies of this magazine, so if I'm lucky I'll be able to track down additional information.

According to the Google book search, they have back issues of The Strand at the Pasadena public library. I have to head out that way for an errand sometime this week. No reason that I can't make a little detour...


Edited by jmfangio (log)

"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

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Also of note, "The Strand" was, (and is,) quite a famous magazine, notably publishing Arthur Conan Doyle's accounts of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  It appears some local libraries may have vintage copies of this magazine, so if I'm lucky I'll be able to track down additional information.

According to the Google book search, they have back issues of The Strand at the Pasadena at the Pasadena public library. I have to head out that way for an errand sometime this week. No reason that I can't make a little detour...

i'm sure boston public library would have it. their archives are incredible and i love an excuse to go up to the room where its at. (must take my camera next time)

does the bottle cocktail idea seem too far off? are their any famous ones besides pimms?


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Also of note, "The Strand" was, (and is,) quite a famous magazine, notably publishing Arthur Conan Doyle's accounts of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  It appears some local libraries may have vintage copies of this magazine, so if I'm lucky I'll be able to track down additional information.

According to the Google book search, they have back issues of The Strand at the Pasadena at the Pasadena public library. I have to head out that way for an errand sometime this week. No reason that I can't make a little detour...

i'm sure boston public library would have it. their archives are incredible and i love an excuse to go up to the room where its at. (must take my camera next time)

does the bottle cocktail idea seem too far off? are their any famous ones besides pimms?

That's essentially what Punt e Mes is as well, let's not forget. And it also overlaps into the aperitif wine category as well. I doubt it's an appropriate substitute, but perhaps they are kindred spirits (hah).


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I'll consult the stack elves and see if they can find the relevant volume (working in the world's biggest library has its privileges - I checked out one of our copies of the Savoy Cocktail Book last week and had just gotten to the point of wondering what the heck Hercules was! :laugh: )

Update: Well, the elves came through, but the volume reference on Google isn't right - there is no ad for Hercules on page 61, or any other page for that matter. I'll have them pull the volumes before and after this one and see if I can find it there.


Edited by hannnah (log)

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard

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For the record (from Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails, ca. 1928):

gallery_15117_5010_244436.jpg


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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The lack of suggestion to dilute with water seems to be a strike against Hercules being an absinthe substitute, while the seperate line suggesting mixing with gin seems to lend some more credence to the idea of it being a quinquina.

We need to figure out what this stuff is. I had a dream about it last night :blink:

-Andy


Andy Arrington

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Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Found one of the ads that specifically says "Maté-Wine Aperitif" - scan coming shortly.


"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard

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A few things...

One of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book is the "Health Cocktail" (2/3 Hercules, 1/3 Brandy), given the similar verbiage to the ad, I feel pretty certain that the Hercules in the ad Splificator posted and from the Strand is the one called for in the Savoy.

Does "Numatea" equal "Yerba-Mate"?

I feel less certain that the Quinquina in the Dutch poster is the same product.

Others have pointed out to me that there was a French wine based "Absinthe Substitute" called Amourette. Though, on what level a wine based Aperitif can be an "Absinthe Substitute", I don't know. Similar herbs and spices?

I haven't tried Yerba-Mate; but, I believe, like Wormwood, it is quite bitter. Can anyone comment on whether its flavor is similar to Wormwood? Minty-Sagey-Bitter?

Serious Absinthe fanciers claim Absinthe's "Secondary Effects" include, "lively mental clarity and uplifted mood, not unlike that of caffeine." Doesn't sound too far from what I've heard of the effects Yerba-Mate, so I guess in that sense it does sort of qualify as an "Absinthe Substitute".

Or perhaps the idea of it being an Absinthe substitute, just resulted from some Vermouth/Wermut/Wormwood/Absinthe confusion?


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Ok, here's the ad - from vol. 74 of the Strand Magazine, Jul-Dec. 1927:

gallery_8815_5112_105926.jpg

It clears up at least a couple of the questions - it's definitely maté-based, and they don't intend for it to be diluted with water (spirits perhaps, but not water).

As far as flavor profile, I haven't tried maté myself, but I have been around when it was being prepared and drunk, and it struck me as more along the lines of strong tea - bitter but not unpleasantly so - and it smelled a lot like tea. Per Wikipedia, "The flavor of brewed yerba mate is strongly vegetal, herbal, and grassy, reminiscent of some varieties of green tea. Many consider the flavor to be very agreeable, but it is generally bitter if steeped in boiling water, so it is made using hot but not boiling water."

Unless there's a lot of something else aniseedy in it, this stuff is sounding less and less like an absinthe substitute.


"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard

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Yerba maté isn't particularly bitter unless it is infused into boiling water. I would say it's somewhat similar to green or oolong tea, only without the bitterness and astringency.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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More on the question of proof. That "n.e. 42 [degrees] proof spirit" in the ad I scanned has been troubling, because all of the uses for it in the ad suggest something of a lower proof than a standard spirit. Now I find upon investigation that, at the time, in Britain wines were defined for taxation purposes as being between 30 and 42 degrees proof spirit, so those degrees would have to be percentage points of proof (which was 50% by volume), rather than actual degrees of alcohol, and--more importantly--Hercules would in point of fact be a low-proof aperitif, rather than a high-proof digestif (I stand corrected).

Complicated stuff, this.


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Cool Hannnah!

Thanks so much!

All these ads are making me think it is more like a wine based Red Bull than an Absinthe substitute!


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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