Artist’s Special

Adapted from Sherry by Talia Baiocchi

This drink first appears in Harry McElhone’s 1927 Barflies and Cocktails, and again three years later in The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) with the caption: “This is the genuine ‘Ink of Inspiration,’ imbibed at the Bal Bullier, Paris. The recipe is from the Artists’ Club, Rue Pigalle, Paris.”

In the 1920s the Rue Pigalle—or Quartier Pigalle—was a sordid slice of neighborhood between the 18th and 9th arrondissements, not far from the Moulin Rouge. Between the two world wars this became ground zero for the jazz movement—a kind of Harlem of Paris—and the home base for the likes of Utrillo and Picasso. The Artists’ Bar, also called Fred Payne’s Bar—or “Freddie’s,” as Henry Miller called it in the opening of his short story “Burlesque”—played host to everyone from jazz musicians to poets. This remained true of the bar through the Beat era.

The Artist’s Special, which is essentially a riff on the Whiskey Sour, had apparently become popular enough that it made its way across the Seine to become a staple at the Bal Bullier, after that room was reimagined in the 1920s, in both décor and activities, in the spirit of Dada.

The redcurrant syrup is adapted from Jerry Thomas’s 1862 Bartender’s Guide. If redcurrants are unavailable, raspberries or sour cherries will make a fine substitute, as will grenadine.

Reprinted with permission from Sherry by Talia Baiocchi, copyright © 2014. Photo by Ed Anderson © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.


Serving: 1

  • 1 ounce oloroso (preferably Lustau Don Nuno)
  • 1 ounce blended scotch (preferably Black Grouse)
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce redcurrant syrup (See Editor's Note)

Garnish: lemon peel

  1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add ice and shake.
  3. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with the lemon peel.
Editor's Note

To make redcurrant syrup, in a bowl, combine the 1 cup of stemmed redcurrants and 1/4 cup of raspberries and muddle. Cover with a cloth or kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature overnight. Add the 1 1/4 cups of sugar and 7 ounces of boiling water and stir to combine. Let cool, and finely strain into a jar or glass bottle. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.