Saturday, March 27, 2010

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Stoughton's Elixir, an Early Example

Stoughton (or Stoughton’s) bitters are one of those classic cocktail ingredients, now defunct, over which a certain breed of cocktail enthusiast swoons. First concocted in the late 17th century by British apothecary Richard Stoughton, Stoughton’s “elixir” was hugely popular and spawned countless homemade imitations. Just as ersatz KahlĂșa recipes now pepper American recipe collections, ersatz Stoughton’s receipts cropped up in household manuscripts throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

While looking for something else entirely last night, I came across an even earlier example: To make Stoughton’s Elixir from 1758. Eliza Smith’s’s book, The Compleat Housewife, was originally published in London in 1727, but was so popular that it went through many editions and reprintings in Britain and, later, America. As far as current research indicates, it was in 1742 the first cookbook published in what was to become the United States.

This makes Smith’s recipe for Stoughton’s the earliest published in America—assuming the recipe was in the 1742 edition. I looked and looked though the shelves at home and didn’t find one to confirm. All I got is this lousy 1758 reprint.

To make Stoughton’s Elixir. Pare off the rinds of six Seville oranges very thin, and put them in a quart bottle, with an ounce of gentian scraped and sliced, and six penny-worth of cochineal; put to it a pint of the best brandy; shake it together two or three times the first day, and then let it stand to settle two days, and clear it off into bottles for use; take a large tea spoonful in a glass of wine in a morning and at four in the afternoon; or you may take it in a dish of tea.
Eliza Smith (1758, 16th edition)
The Compleat Housewife - Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman's Companion

7 comments:

Trid said...

All that fcraping and flicing fcares me :)

michael said...

Just wanted to say that I dig the blog. Thanks for all the great recipes and tips. I wish I was still living in San Diego 'cause I'd buy you a drink or two.

Also, just read your book Moonshine, couldn't put it down.

Matthew Rowley said...

Michael ~ Thanks. The blog's mostly here for my own amusement, but I try to keep it light with recipes that work (though I'm not 100% sure about those Eggs William S. Burroughs I posted this week). Don't be too hasty with offers of drinks: I've been known to travel to other cities just for good drinks and good company.

Trid ~ Come on now. It's a beautiful day outside and now you're tempting me to stay in, geek out, and fplain how those aren't really F's?

michael said...

Well, if you happen to find yourself out Boston way some weekend, for the next 6 months or so anyway, drop a line. Not really to dialed in on the cocktail scene up here, but don't mind hitting the town looking for it either.
On another note, I'm going to be in NOLA for derby day with my sweetie and she's set on mint juleps. Are any of the places in your 9/3/9 post good for them.

Matthew Rowley said...

Ah, no doubt you'll have fun in NOLA. Several bartenders make respectable juleps, but they're rarely an item I order out. I haven't had one from Chris Hannah (Arnaud's French 75) or Danny Valdez (Cure), though I'd trust either to make a passable mint julep.

But do, without fail, track down Chris McMillian. Call ahead to see if he's working at Bar UnCommon the night you intend to you ~ or be prepared to change your schedule to be there when he is.

Pableaux Johnson did a nice piece on his performance piece of a julep here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/02/dining/02jule.html

I've seen him do this 5 or 6 times over the years and it's a treat.

michael said...

thanks for the tip. I think that will be what the doc ordered.

michael said...

Just wanted to say thanks for the recommendation. We went to UnCommon on derby day after the main race for some proper mint juleps. It didn't disappoint. Although initially there was no room at the bar when we ordered our drinks, some space did free up eventually and some other people ordered so we caught the perfomance. Another great trip to New Orleans is in the books now and unfortunatley I wasn't able to bootleg any sausages home. I guess there is always next time.