Drink of the Week: The Cold Deck Cocktail


A quick Google search gives us two definitions of the term “cold deck.

1. a deck of cards which has been dishonestly arranged beforehand.
2. a pile of logs stored away from the immediate area where logging is taking place.

Which of these do you think the Cold Deck is named for?  Like drinking and gambling, logging is a fine pursuit if done responsibly. Still, it’s got to be the crooked deck that this drink is named for. Have you ever met a gambler who didnt drink? Have you ever seen a lumberjack in a movie swilling a martini?

The Cold Deck Cocktai

1 1/2 ounces brandy or cognac
3/4 ounce white creme de menthe
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth

Put the ingredients in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Stir or shake this one very vigorously. (I prefer shaken for this one, but do as you prefer.) Strain into a chilled chocktail glass and drink it while it’s cold!


Many people like to reduce the amount of creme de menthe, but this more complex variation on a Stinger is a drink that’s not necessarily for sweetness fearing hardcore cocktail snobs. 1930’s The Savoy Cocktail Book not only gives these proportions but also tells us to shake the Cold Deck, Ian Fleming style. The usual rule — not mine, just the cocktail cosmos — is to only shake drinks with fruit juice in them. However, these ingredients are very strong and sweet tasting, so adding a bit of ice and water improves the experience in my opinion. Take that, cocktailianados!

Now, I have to admit that the Cold Deck nearly got cut when I ignored the advice of my elementary school teachers  and failed to read the instructions carefully on several recipes. Somehow, I got the idea that this was a gin based drink. The results were mixed. With gin, the creme de menthe completely takes over. That became even more the case with I switched from the standard DeKuyper to Drillaud, a more upscale, tasty, and unapologetically pepperminty version of the liqueur. While my in-house guinea pig was on board with the gin drink, for me it was bordering on liquid Doublemint. And, yes, I’m saying that like it’s a bad thing.

The second I learned of my mistake, however, it all suddenly made sense. A bold brandy could fight back against the mint! My first try was also the best. Sacred Bond, Christian Brothers’ rather fascinating and inexpensive 100 proof bottled in bond American brandy with a whiskey-esque edge, rendered a sweet but also rich, floral, and just a touch bitter drink that was an entirely grownup treat.

Hennessy cognac allowed the mint to play a bigger leading role but still presented a nice contrast. Reynal, my mellow default French brandy was maybe a bit too much in the background. Still, the Cold Deck is a drink I have warm feelings toward.


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