Recipe: The Leap Year Cocktail

published May 16, 2014
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(Image credit: Roger Kamholz)

Depending on how you calculate it, the Leap Year cocktail either turned 86 this year — or is just embarking on its 20s. We know this because the exact date this drink was invented is documented in the Savoy Cocktail Book, bartender Harry Craddock’s popular mixing manual, first published in 1930. This blend of gin, orange liqueur, lemon, and sweet vermouth was born on Leap Day, 1928.

Craddock, an American who decamped to London and helmed the bar at the famous Savoy Hotel during Prohibition, noted in his entry about the Leap Year cocktail recipe that the drink was “said to have been responsible for more [marriage] proposals than any other cocktail that has ever been mixed.” That’s quite a claim, although it’s hard to know from Craddock’s blurb whether all that Leap Year-fueled question-popping resulted in engagements.

(Image credit: Roger Kamholz)

The next Leap Day is a ways off, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy this classic Prohibition-era now.

The Leap Year Cocktail

Serves 1

2 ounces London Dry gin
3/4 ounce orange liqueur
1/2 ounces sweet vermouth (try with Punt e Mes)
About 1/8 ounce lemon juice

Add ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes and stir for about 30 seconds. Strain contents into a chilled cocktail glass.

Recipe Notes

  • Many versions of this recipe call for shaking, which makes sense given there is a non-spirituous ingredient. But there’s so little lemon juice, I find shaking unnecessary. You just want the faintest hint of citrus — the squeeze of a wedge or a bar spoon’s worth.
  • Made with Punt e Mes, a sweet vermouth made with bitter chinchona bark, this version of the Leap Year is punchy and sweet up front, and then finishes with flavors of bitter herbs and orange peel.