The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, a landmark building, stands proudly at the corner of Broad and Walnut in Philadelphia. The Bellevue, once one of the grandest hotels, a place to see and be seen, a destination of quality and luxury, is now merely a shadow of it’s former self. The grandeur of the Bellevue didn’t last, and even with the restoration effort of the 1970s and 80s, it remains little more than an historic building, but what a building it is. Yes, the beautiful and famous building is still one of Philadelphia’s treasured hotels, known for many things including an important part in the history of the now classic Clover Club cocktail.
During the hotel’s glory days, you could find all manner of guests, some overnight patrons, others regulars who would attend various affairs, and social clubs, who would use the facilities for regular meetings. In the days before prohibition, there met a select group of journalists called the Clover Club. Beginning in 1882, the Clover Club met every month, and, by 1910 the Clover Club cocktail, named for the stalwart group, first appears in print. Given such a rich history, it would seem expectations are a bit elevated for this particular drink.
The final result, a cocktail named for that exclusive Philadelphia social club, doesn’t disappoint. The Clover Club does require some preparation, raspberry syrup is a key ingredient, but it’s not hard to prepare, and results in a beverage that’s nice and smooth from the egg white and as tasty as a raspberry smoothie. Without all the annoying seeds, of course.
Gin, lemon, raspberry syrup, and egg white. That’s it. Over the years vermouth was added to the ingredients, but we find it unnecessary. Interesting, yes, but not really needed in this classic sour. We do, however, recommend a nice dry gin. The Walter Collective is a good choice here. It’s dry, it’s focused, yes, you get a strong sense of the juniper, but, unlike the classic London dry, it’s not as sharp, adding a bit more dimension, softening the edge and finishing, as many American gins do, with citrus and spice, but in a good way that invites you back for more. Perfect for us, we prefer assertive gin in a sour, and matched with house made raspberry syrup and lemon, well, we like it very much.
The original Clover Club may be long gone, and the fancy hotel may have lost it’s luster, but it still stands at the corner of Broad and Market, and the cocktail named for one of the Bellevue’s regular groups is still served, and enjoyed by many, even if they’ve never heard of the original social club. The best part is you can give it a try without having to travel to Philly.
Raspberry simple syrup
1 pint raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Place the ingredients in a pan and bring to a near boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 4 minutes. Strain the berries and let cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Clover Club Cocktail
1 1/2 oz The Walter Collective Gin
1/2 oz Lemon juice
1/2 oz House made raspberry simple syrup
1 egg white (use a small or medium egg)
Shake with ice, then strain and shake again without ice. We prefer the reverse dry shake, because shaking with ice first makes the shaker cold, and it will seal better if you dry shake after, rather than before. Serve up, and garnish with fresh raspberries.