The Celluloid Pantry: Stingers with Green Creme de Menthe and The Big Clock (1948)
In the noir classic, The Big Clock (1948), the dizzying sting of a certain green cocktail sends New York crime magazine writer, George Stroud (Ray Milland, left), reeling.
Married seven years, and the father of a five-year-old boy, workaholic Stroud has finally scheduled a long-delayed honeymoon with his wife, Georgette (Maureen O’Sullivan). But time is of the essence. Just hours before Stroud’s train is due to depart, his boss, publishing mogul Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), hits him with a big assignment, issuing an ultimatum: get to work immediately or look for a new job. Stroud stands up for himself and quits, but then makes the fatal mistake of stopping by Van Barth’s, a local hotel bar, to celebrate.
There he meets with his boss’ estranged mistress, the model Pauline York (Rita Johnson, center), who promises she has some dirt on Janoth that Stroud might find valuable. The two begin commiserating over Stingers, Stroud’s favorite cocktail, and talk turns to another Crimeways employee who got fired for using green ink instead of red. In defiant exuberance, Stroud orders up some more Stingers, specifying (to the bartender’s great horror) that they be made with green instead of white creme de menthe. The emerald drinks pack quite a wallop, and Stroud’s suddenly panicked to realize he’s missed his train.
A cross-town bender involving a handkerchief fatefully stained with green creme de menthe, an impulsive art purchase, a whimsical mission to find a green clock, and finally murder, ensues.
A refreshingly sweet and minty digestif, the Stinger is thought to have been first concocted in the 1900s, when it was customarily made with equal parts of white creme de menthe and brandy, served straight up. During the Prohibition era, it gained popularity as law-bending drinkers found its minty overtones just the thing for disguising the taste of bad bootleg hooch.
This old recipe, however, is somewhat heavy and cloying for most modern tastes. Today, Stingers are usually served on the rocks and with a 3:1 (or even 4:1) instead of 1:1 ratio of brandy to white creme de menthe. Because the quality of creme de menthe and brandy can vary widely, top-shelf ingredients are essential if you prefer a crisper, drier drink.
(makes one cocktail)
1 ‘ oz. brandy or cognac
1/2 oz. white creme de menthe (or green, if you want an emerald one like Stroud’s)
Pour the brandy and the creme de menthe into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Stir gently and garnish with a mint leaf if desired.