The Godfather cocktail and its siblings
Words by Simon Difford
Photography by Dan Malpass
Traditionally equal parts Scotch blended whisky and amaretto, the Godfather is one of the enduring classics to emerge from the 1970s. It's basically an Old-Fashioned with attitude – the attitude being: why sweeten with mere sugar when you could use a flavoursome liqueur.
Like all great cocktails, the Godfather is a member of a family of similar cocktails:
Godfather: Scotch whisky and amaretto
Godmother: Vodka and amaretto
Godchild: Brandy and amaretto
Amaretto tends to combine more harmoniously with dark spirits than the likes of vodka or gin and there's something about whisky, particularly the smoky note in Scotch whisky, that sits brilliantly alongside amaretto. Hence, it is the Godfather that has proved the most enduring of the 'God' cocktail family.
What's a Godfather called when made with Bourbon rather than Scotch? Well, according to Stanley M. Jones' 1977 Jones' Complete Barguide (page 233), it's simply The Boss:
The appearance of the whole 'God damn' cocktail family in Jones', published in 1977, and numerous cocktail books from the 1980s, is testament to the Godfather being a 1970s cocktail. Indeed, this cocktail is eponymously named after the Italian-American Mafia book and film trilogy, The Godfather. Mario Puzo's novel was published in 1969 and Francis Ford Coppola's first film followed in March 1972, the highest-grossing film of the year, and for some years after.
Jones' and most other cocktail books of the period stipulate an equal parts (1oz Scotch to 1oz amaretto) recipe which produces a very tasty, but slightly sweet dessert-style cocktail. Easing back the liqueur and upping the proportion of whisky dries the cocktail adding spirituous spice, moving from the dessert course to more nightcap Old Fashioned territory. Such a move also screams for dashes of bitters. Suddenly this 1970s cocktail gets serious, seriously good and worthy of riffs:
Classic Godfather cocktail
With: Scotch whisky and amaretto.
We say: Ratios for this range from equal parts to 8:1 but we like ours 3:1.
Almond Old Fashioned (bourbon-based)
With: Bourbon, amaretto, dark sugar syrup, aromatic bitters.
We say: Bourbon's sweet notes are lifted by amaretto's almond richness.
Almond Old Fashioned (tequila-based)
With: Reposado tequila, amaretto liqueur, agave syrup and orange bitters.
We say: Just as it says on the tin. Yumm.
With: Bourbon, amaretto liqueur, dry vermouth, and rosso vermouth.
We say: An amaretto Brooklyn or a bourbon-based Godfather with vermouth.
With: Bottled-in-Bond rye whiskey, amaretto and bitters.
We say: A Godfather made with bourbon is "The Boss" so it stands to reason that with bottled-in-bond rye it is the Big Boss.
With: Bourbon, amaretto liqueur, cream and sugar syrup.
We say: A creamy Godfather.
With: Scotch whisky, amaretto liqueur, and amontillado sherry.
We say: Add a splash of sherry to a Godfather and you've an explorer.
With: Fat-washed Scotch whisky, amaretto liqueur and whiskey barrel bitters.
We say: This Godfather has been on the bacon.
With: Bourbon, rye whiskey, amaretto liqueur, crème de noyau, maraschino liqueur and aromatic bitters.
We say: A rich fruity riff on a Godfather with a surprisingly dry finish.
With: Scotch whisky. Amaretto liqueur, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white.
We say: A rich almondy whisky sour.
Jack's Godfather Highball
With: Tennessee whiskey, amaretto liqueur and cola.
We say: The ultimate Italian American highball.
Loch Almond Highball
With: Scotch whisky, amaretto, liqueur and ginger ale.
We say: Add ginger ale to lengthen a Godfather and we've a Loch Almond Highball.
Madurised Old Fashioned Godfather
With: Bourbon, rye whiskey, Scotch whisky, amaretto liqueur, and Verdelho madeira.
We say: A trio of whiskies with rich vinious nutty complexity.
Smoked Old Fashioned Godfather
With: Bourbon, rye whiskey, Scotch whisky, amaretto liqueur and Islay peated single malt.
We say: A quartet of whiskies with rich almond notes.
With: Tennessee whiskey, amaretto, dry vermouth, orange bitters.
We say: Add a splash of vermouth to a Godfather and you've a Manhattan.
Toasted Old Fashioned Godfather
With: Rye whiskey, bourbon whiskey, amaretto liqueur and aromatic bitters.
We say: A complex, dry and boozy late-night sipper.