Recreating a classic: Forbidden Fruit
How The Dorchester resurrected not only a long-lost liqueur but also recreated a Harry Craddock classic cocktail
The recipe called for Forbidden Fruit but all searches drew a blank: 'defunct'; 'no longer manufactured'; 'not made in years'. Giuliano Morandin, head bartender of The Bar at The Dorchester Hotel in London, desperately wanted the liqueur to recreate a cocktail marking the hotel's 80th birthday. Unfortunately, Forbidden Fruit seemed to be living up to its name.
Giuliano's aim to recreate this celebratory cocktail was significant in several different ways. First, he had chanced upon the drink in a 1951 cocktail book he had bought on eBay, Ted Saucier's Bottoms Up, and its name was perfect for the occasion: Dorchester of London (Â½ gin, Â¼ Bacardi rum, Â½ Forbidden Fruit, stirred and served up with a lemon twist). Second, it was by a rather famous bartender, one Harry Craddock. Third, it referenced the fact Harry created the drink while working at the bar at the Dorchester, not the Savoy. And fourth, it named the bar at the hotel as the American Bar, confirming that the bar was at least colloquially called something other than simply 'the bar' at the Dorchester.
"I'd seen Forbidden Fruit mentioned before in recipes but hadn't thought much about it," says Giuliano, who has worked at The Dorchester for 30 years. "I just assumed it was an ingredient in use about 100 years ago that was simply not around anymore. But of course when I saw this cocktail's name and the fact it was by Harry Craddock it caught my attention."
Harry's presence at The Dorchester's Bar is well known but is unfortunately not otherwise documented. He is thought to have joined the hotel in 1937 or '38. A shaker was actually previously found buried in the wall during later renovations to the bar - burying cocktails was a hallmark of Harry, who had done similar at the Savoy - containing three recipes including the White Lady and the Dry Martini, but it was thrown away in the refurbishment. "With this cocktail recipe, and several others in this book that also referenced his presence at The Dorchester, we suddenly had proof that Harry worked here," says Giuliano.
While he continued his search for an original bottle of the elusive Forbidden Fruit liqueur, Giuliano decided to commission a new version based on what he had found out it. Forbidden Fruit was an American liqueur whose packaging would go on to be adopted by Chambord. In its original incarnation, however, it was a brandy-based liqueur flavoured with pommelo, a south east Asian fruit similar to the grapefruit, and sweetened with honey (though in later incarnations is thought to have been sweetened with that most American of products, maple syrup).
Step forward Robert Petrie, a pastry chef at The Dorchester, already worked closely with the hotel's bar, who in his other guise as Bob of Bob's Bitters had recreated Boker's Bitters and other bitters such as lavender, grapefruit, ginger and coriander. Bob set to work in the garage next to his home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, cold macerating half a litre of Courvoisier VSOP with dried pommelo skins, sliced Seville oranges, including peel, flesh and pith, and fresh vanilla pods. He and Giuliano would taste it every couple of weeks, refining the recipe. Five weeks and several tweaks later it was pressed through muslin in an old apple press, tasted again and honey added.
Meanwhile, Giuliano had chanced upon an unopened bottle of 1930s Forbidden Fruit in America on eBay (he won't say how much he paid), after the contents of someone's drinks cabinet was sold upon their death. Rather than opening the 80-year-old liqueur then and there, he decided to let Bob continue working on a 'tribute' product, and to open the original bottle and compare the two versions at a special ceremony marking the hotel's 80th birthday.
In late April came the big reveal, and Giuliano opened the original Forbidden Fruit alongside the new version, tasting and comparing each independently before making the Dorchester of London cocktail with both versions.
Bob's tribute Forbidden Fruit has a honey and floral (honeysuckle and jasmine) nose. On the palate, vanilla, lemon, grapefruit and honey, akin to Lockett's cough sweets and with flavours similar to Strega, with a syrupy viscous quality. In contrast, the original was more liquid, spicier and with a mellowed honey finish rather than a stronger main honeyed flavour. "The original was not that citrus and I would not say it was particularly sweet at all," says Bob. "It had the complexity you associate with age but it was hard to pick out individual flavours."
Those differences meant the two comparative Dorchester of London cocktails were vastly different. "With the rum and gin you get a flavour you can't quite identify, but with the original Forbidden Fruit the whole thing was just too intense and had no balance," says Giuliano. "Our new version is more balanced and bridges the rum and gin much better."
The Dorchester of London is now listed on The Bar's menu on a page of 'Forgotten Classics', sold in a 1930s-style cocktail glass at Â£16 each, and is selling well. "We've got through three bottles of Bob's Forbidden Fruit so far," says Giuliano. Harry Craddock would be pleased.