At the Gibson in Washington, D.C., general manager and creative director Jewel Murray has a rotating spot on the menu for lesser-known drinks pulled from the deep recesses of cocktail history. Just after the new year, Murray was on the hunt for a rum-based classic, something light and bright to act as a kind of palate cleanser following the holiday season, but something that wouldn’t feel completely out of place in the winter. She pulled three recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book and, after workshopping them with her staff, she had a clear winner: the Pauline.
The drink first appeared in the home bartending manual Drinks—Long & Short by Nina Toye and A.H. Adair, which was published in London in 1925. To make six servings, the original recipe calls for three glasses (presumably about 6 ounces) each of rum and sweetened lemon juice, a dash of wormwood bitters, and grated nutmeg added directly to the mixture before shaking. The Savoy recipe is almost identical, including its large batch size, except the bitters are listed as “Absinthe bitters.”
On first glance, the Pauline might seem like a variation on the classic Daiquiri. But, between the lemon juice (rather than lime), large-format build and nutmeg garnish, the Pauline harks back to other rum sours (see: the Gem) that trace a direct line to pre–Civil War rum punches. A key distinction between a rum sour (or punch) and a Daiquiri is the style of rum that would have been used.
At the turn of the 20th century, punch (which calls for aged rum) was on the wane and the Daiquiri (which calls for unaged rum) was suddenly on the rise. The Savoy Cocktail Book doesn’t specify which type of rum to use in the Pauline, but Murray asserts that bartenders must “use their judgment to accomplish what they want” through their choice of spirit, whether the desired result is a classic rum punch or a super-clean Daiquiri. Murray’s aim was the latter.
When creating the Gibson’s recipe, the team skipped the more common Daiquiri rums, and opted instead for an unusual expression from Haiti called San Zanj, which blends an unaged rum and two types of clairin (a wild-fermented, unaged spirit produced from sugar cane juice). Murray describes it as “a little earthy and yeasty with a touch of saline,” and more complex than a typical white rum.
In the final spec, which was developed by bartender Daniel Sanchez, the white rum base is layered with lemon juice and simple syrup, plus a generous four dashes of absinthe and a single dash of orange bitters. The bar’s program leans heavily on absinthe, and the combination of the spirit and orange bitters works to approximate the original recipe’s wormwood bitters. The choice of absinthe, Kübler Original, lends a classic flavor profile that, Murray says, “does a great job speaking loudly enough without drowning out all the other voices.”
To finish, the drink gets a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. In spite of Murray’s goal of a clean Daiquiri riff, the garnish fits in perfectly with the season and, she says, it doesn’t always need to be paired with aged spirits, calling it “much more versatile” than common wisdom would have us believe. “It plays really well in less traditional uses,” she says.
Murray admits that recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book don’t always appeal to the modern palate, which is why it’s so gratifying to find a “sleeper hit” in the pages that have been thoroughly picked over by bartenders. In the Pauline, she found the perfect winterized Daiquiri. “I kind of wanted it to feel like waking up to a surprise dusting of snow in the morning,” she says, and with the drink’s crisp, briny rum, bright citrus, anise note and nutmeg, it evokes just that.