Tearing a webpage from Kaiser Penguin's outstanding cocktail comparison posts, like this one, I decided to evaluate a couple of different recipes for the classic exotic cocktail, the Suffering Bastard.
Accounts differ, but the Suffering Bastard was probably created in the early 20th century at the Shepherd's Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. At first, it was called the Suffering Bar Steward, but the local British officers misheard it, and began asking for a Suffering Bastard instead, so the name stuck. The original recipe called for either brandy and gin, or bourbon and gin, mixed with lime juice, ginger beer, and bitters.
I made the recipe in Beachbum Berry's Grog Log first, which appears to be very close to the original:
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
4 oz. Chilled Ginger Beer
1 oz. Bourbon (Knob Creek)
1 oz. Gin (Hendrick's)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Pour all ingredients into a double old-fashioned glass and fill with ice cubes. Stir well, then garnish with mint sprig and an orange wheel speared with a maraschino cherry.
This is a damn fine cocktail. I'm surprised it's taken me this long to whip one up. The ginger ale and lime juice balance the gin and bourbon perfectly, and a dash of bitters gives it just the right hint of spice. I'm usually not a big fan of bourbon in cocktails (or anywhere else for that matter), but this changed my mind completely. I think it's destined to become a personal favorite.
The second recipe comes from Beachbum Berry's Sippin Safari, and subs Coca Cola and brandy for the Ginger Ale and Bourbon in the Grog Log version. This variation was created by Hank Riddle, a half-Phillipino, half-American protégé of Don the Beachcomber.
3/4 oz. Rose's Lime Juice (I hate Rose's, so I used fresh-squeezed again)
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup (I used my homemade Demerara Cane syrup)
1/2 oz. Gin (Hendrick's again)
1 oz. Brandy (Paul Masson V.S.O.P.)
1 oz. Coca Cola
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake well with ice cubes, then pour into a double old-fashioned glass and fill with ice cubes. Garnish with mint sprig and an orange wheel speared with a maraschino cherry.
This is also a very good drink, but it lacks the complexity of the first, and is a bit sweeter, although not overpoweringly so, and the aromatics in the gin are not as noticeable. I found the brandy to be an unsatisfactory substitute for the bourbon, and also preferred the spicy edge of the ginger beer in the original recipe, to the all-too familiar taste of Coke in this variant.
I found a 3rd recipe in Trader Vic's Pacific Island Cookbook. This variation has absolutely no relationship to the Cairo Hotel cocktail, and is in fact, simply a Mai Tai with an extra ounce of rum and a cucumber slice added for garnish. This points up a common problem I've encountered with TV cocktail recipes...they all seem to be largely interchangeable. Since I've had plenty of Mai Tais, I decided to skip it and take the above photo, showing the Hank Riddle Bastard served in a TV old-fashioned glass, next to the iconic Trader Vic's Suffering Bastard decanter (actually a Tiki Farm replica) instead.
So there you have it. The 100-year old original is still the winner by far. Now I'm off to fire up the grill and prep a couple of thick, juicy T-bones for dinner tonight.