Brown Derby

Difford's Guide
User Rating (109 ratings)

Serve in a

Coupe glass

Garnish:

Grapefruit zest twist

How to make:

SHAKE all ingredients with ice and fine strain into chilled glass.

1 1/2 fl oz Bourbon whiskey
1 fl oz Pink grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed)
1/3 fl oz Maple syrup
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Review:

Some folk make this cocktail with honey syrup rather than maple syrup. Honey does indeed make for a tasty cocktail and is stipulated in the Brown Derby recipe that appears in George Buzza Jr.'s, 1933 Hollywood Cocktails. However, according to the 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book, when made with honey this cocktail is a De Rigueur Cocktail.

Whatever the name, I prefer this cocktail made with maple syrup, as unless you have a very full-bodied honey, maple syrup's 'tang' sits better with the bourbon and grapefruit combo.

Variant:

American Breakfast, or when based on scotch whisky and sweetened with honey this becomes a De Rigueur.

History:

Said to have been created in the 1930s by a bartender at the Vendôme Café which sat at 6666 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. The Vendôme was opened in May 1933 by William "Billy" Wilkerson, a real estate developer who also owned The Hollywood Reporter, the offices of which were a block away.

Although created at the Vendôme, this cocktail is named after another fashionable Hollywood restaurant of the era, the Brown Derby at 1628 North Vine Street. Due to its proximity to the movie studios, this branch of the Brown Derby was more famous than the original, smaller branch at 3427 Wilshire Boulevard, famous for being housed in a building shaped like a man's derby hat.

The misguided belief that the Brown Derby should be sweetened with honey stems from a recipe in George Buzza Jr.'s, 1933 Hollywood Cocktails

BROWN DERBY COCKTAIL
1/2 Whisky
1/4 Grapefruit Juice
1/4 Honey
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

George Buzza Jr., 1933

When considering what the original ingredients were in a Brown Derby it is not the sweetener that should be questioned but the base spirit and evidence for this comes from Esquire Magazine. The cocktail is first referenced in the magazine's "Painting the Town" column in 1935, "Amen Corner of Fifth Avenue Hotel gave me my chance to imbibe a Brown Derby amid politicians and litterateurs, who also eat there." Then, in 1939, a recipe for the Brown Derby appears in the title's "Potables" column.

2 parts dark rum
1 teaspoon maple sugar
Juice of one lime
Shake well and serve

Murdock Pemberton, Esquire, 1939

Hence, for a true Brown Derby you may wish to use a dark rum in place of whiskey in the recipe above.

Nutrition:

One serving of Brown Derby contains 162 calories.

Alcohol content:

  • 1 standard drinks
  • 17.08% alc./vol. (34.16° proof)
  • 14.5 grams of pure alcohol
Difford's Guide remains free-to-use thanks to the support of the brands in green above. Values stated for alcohol and calorie content, and number of drinks an ingredient makes should be considered approximate.

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Buy direct from
the_whisky_exchange store logo
£ -.--

Makes a minimum of ... cocktails
Just £ -.-- per cocktail*

* This list may not include all required ingredients.
Price per cocktail is an estimate based on the cost of making one cocktail with the available ingredients shown above and does not include any postage charges.
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