Vodka cocktails are rare in books dating from before World War II, but they do exist, and some of them are quite good. The Gypsy Queen, for example, is a vodka drink from the 1930s, created at the famous Russian Tea Room and designed to showcase Benedictine Liqueur.
It’s no surprise a pre-war vodka recipe would come from a place like the Russian Tea Room, one of many Eastern European restaurants catering to immigrants who, in their homelands, would have had access to vodka. Cocktails like the Gypsy Queen were meant for those who were already used to drinking the clear, still exotic spirit that was relatively unknown in the west. It wasn’t until much later, like 1950s later, that vodka became popular in the US. Until then, it was still an ethnic drink, and before that, in times before prohibition, vodka was simply unknown this side of the pond. Today, it’s the top selling spirit in North America.
Benedictine, of course, is an herbal liqueur, and quite unique. You can often find it in small amounts when it comes to cocktails, but here, it’s mixed 2:1 vodka to liqueur. Vodka should add very little to a cocktail, so the burden falls on the Benedictine, and it works. We use Portland Potato Vodka in ours, which offers a nod to tradition, and the Russian spirits of the time, but if you can't get it where you are, try Luksusowa instead. Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters rounds everything off nicely, being a nicer compliment to the liqueur than the usual Angostura. As for garnish, we prefer it without, but, traditionally, a lemon twist is used. In either case, the Gypsy Queen is a classic that’s well worth a taste, especially since you don’t have to go to the Russian Tea Room to find one. Make it at home, share one with friends!
- 2 oz Portland Potato Vodka (or Luksusowa)
- 1 oz Benedictine
- 2 dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters (or Angostura)
Stir with ice and serve up. No garnish