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thirtyoneknots

Hercules

54 posts in this topic

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

That was exactly what I was beginning to think. Futzing around with Google today and did a search for "numa-tea." It revealed a bit of contextual evidence that numa-tea is/was a soothing beverage known to a certain generation of Brits. Certainly fits in with what we're finding out here. Also, possibly a coincidence, but 'mate' is contained within 'numatea' so yeah not sure what to make of that.

So if you infuse Dubonnet or something similar with yerba mate it will make a passable Hercules sub? Or maybe just start with good ol' M&R rosso for a more neutral slate. I may have to try this.

Or I guess I could just send off for some :wink:

-Andy


Edited by thirtyoneknots (log)

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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This is turning into a very interesting thread. There are a couple of herbal apothecaries in my area; I'll try to drop by in the next day or two to see if they have any loose yerba mate, or at least a straight tincture to start experimenting.

Regarding the flavor, Wikipedia says,

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. Unlike most teas, it does not become bitter and astringent when steeped for extended periods, and the leaves may be infused several times.

"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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This is turning into a very interesting thread.  There are a couple of herbal apothecaries in my area;  I'll try to drop by in the next day or two to see if they have any loose yerba mate, or at least a straight tincture to start experimenting.

Regarding the flavor, Wikipedia says,

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. Unlike most teas, it does not become bitter and astringent when steeped for extended periods, and the leaves may be infused several times.

i used to drink alot of yerba mate. a studio musician and former bartender i know got me into it... it was probably compared to absinthe on a homeopathic level... but it could easily have anise added to the mix. anise is added to so many things like mawby for example... tea made from a bark but the drink usually always has various anises added... liqueurs like eque-baugh, more anise... anise would be the only way to make the bland vegetal flavour attractive. acai berries never stand alone... you market its homeopathic properties but you docter the flavor... a story as old as time... adding sugar to 25 brix like most sweet vermouths would drastically reduce any associated bitter...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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I don't know if any conclusions can be drawn about Hercules from the various Savoy Cocktail Book cocktails it is included in; but, here they are. It does seem to be used in a similar amounts to Italian Vermouth.

Angler Cocktail

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.

2 Dashes Orange Bitters.

1/3 Hercules.

2/3 Dry Gin.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Ante Cocktail

1 Dash Angostura Bitters.

1/4 Hercules.

1/4 Cointreau.

1/2 Calvados or Apple brandy.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Cota Cocktail

1/4 Hercules.

1/4 Cointreau.

1/2 Dry Gin.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Gene Corrie Cocktail

1/2 Hercules.

1/2 Dry Gin.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Genevieve Cocktail.

1/3 Hollands Gin.

2/3 Hercules.

Stir well and strain into cocktail glass.

Health Cocktail

1/3 Brandy.

2/3 Hercules.

Stir slightly in ice and strain.

Note: Any desired spirit can be used instead of Brandy.

New Life Cocktail

1/4 Hercules.

1/4 Bacardi Rum.

1/2 Cointreau.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Personality a La Roy Cocktail

1 Dash Angostura Bitters.

1/4 Hercules.

1/4 Applejack or Calvados.

1/2 Dry Gin.

Shake well as strain into cocktail glass.

Ramon Newton Cocktail

1/4 Hercules.

1/4 French Vermouth.

1/2 Dry Gin.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze orange peel on top.

Volstead Cocktail

1/4 Lime Juice.

3/4 Orange Juice.

1 Dash of Hercules.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Warden Cocktail

1/4 French Vermouth

1/4 Hercules.

1/2 Dry Gin.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Wow Cocktail

1/4 Bacardi Rum.

1/4 Hercules.

1/4 Calvados or Apple Brandy.

1/4 Brandy.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Zed Cocktail

1/2 Hercules.

1/2 Calvados or Apple Brandy.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

From the 1934 Second edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book...

Gun Cotton

2 Dashes Absinthe.

1/3 Hercules.

2/3 Gin--Booth's Dry.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Hercules Cocktail

1/3 Hercules.

2/3 Gin.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze a piece of orange peel on top.


---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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In this thread are reminders of the medicinal or semi-medicinal origin of so many cordials and specialty wines. (Which continues: the digestive bitters so popular after meals in C. Europe -- Unterberg, Fernet Branca, Stonsdorfer, Wunderlich -- all used as traditional herbal medicines.)

Remember (I hope it's well known -- this has been in absinthe books for decades) that vermouth is from Germ. Wermut (wormwood, acc. to my Cassell's reference German dictionary). Vermouths have always had a connection with wormwood and mugwort plants, therefore with absinthe liquors.

Maté (yerba maté, aka "Paraguay tea") is a major caffeine source in Latin America (with or without the traditional natural or manmade gourd to drink it from), I think it was discussed on this site a few years ago. In the US (at least on the west coast) it's commonly available in specialty, Latin, and some general grocery stores -- the kind of thing you'd find in bulk at Whole Foods for example. It was common in my father's house in California 35 years ago -- he liked teas and coffees, and my main memory of the stuff (I still keep it at home but rarely make it) is a grassy appearance, pleasant savory herbal flavor, and that it is phenomenally cheap compared to other caffeine sources. It goes well with food. The Gauchos who herded the cattle of Argentina were (are?) said to live on eight pounds of beef a day and a gallon or two of brewed yerba maté.

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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:

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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.


"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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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?


---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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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.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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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.

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?


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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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.

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[...]

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.

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 (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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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.


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

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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.

gallery_8815_5112_66182.jpg


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

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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.


---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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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.

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...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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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.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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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.

gallery_8815_5112_79426.jpg


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

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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. 

gallery_8815_5112_79426.jpg

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


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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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.


Steve Morgan

[T]he cocktail was originally intended as a brief drink, a quick aperitif to stimulate appetite and stiffen the flagging gustatory senses, but it has passed into accustomed usage as a drink to be absorbed in considerable quantity despite the admonitions of the judicious. -- Lucius Beebe

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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 (log)

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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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.

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?


"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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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.

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:


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

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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."


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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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.

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


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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