Some cocktails seem exotic and rare, even though they appear in many cocktail books and magazines. The Poet’s Dream is one such cocktail, having appeared in the 1935 Waldorf Astoria book, and other publications since then. Esquire magazine had a version in the 1940s, and, although not well known, it’s included in enough books to make it one of those hidden classics, but is it named after a poet? No.
Even though Percy Bysshe Shelley published a short verse entitled The Poet’s Dream, it has nothing to do with the cocktail. The Poet’s Dream cocktail, however, does trace it’s roots to the 19th century, if not quite as far as the time of Shelley, and is very similar to the Ford Cocktail, a drink comprised of old tom gin, vermouth and Benedictine. Unlike the Ford, however, the Poet’s Dream, by the time of the Waldorf book, was an equal parts cocktail of London dry gin, vermouth, and Benedictine. You can still find this recipe today, but we prefer the more Ford-like Esquire version which makes it a bit more Martini-like in its modern form, however, with enough Benedictine it remains herbal and a little sweet.
For the Poet’s Dream, Aviation Gin is our choice. We do like the Martini aspect of this cocktail, so we use our Martini gin, but we also like a very American style gin in support of the Benedictine, which, as with the Waldorf original, is the star of this show. So why not go with the equal parts recipe? Simple, Benedictine is sweet, and the Waldorf recipe is a bit too sweet. Even a piney dry gin seems a bit lost in it, so we go for more varied quantities. Aviation also compliments the Benedictine, echoing the botanicals, and countering them with contrast. Only a little bit of Benedictine is needed, along with a very fresh bottle of Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth. The gin makes itself known, more so with our proportions, but, unlike a sharply focused London dry, gracefully steps out of the way in all the right places. Finally, we follow the Esquire advice, and add some orange bitters, RAFT Orange Bitters in this case, for one final bit of finish. RAFT Orange Bitters, like Angostura Orange, brings a bright orange flavor, something we’re fond of in a spirit forward cocktail such as this. In the end, the Poet’s Dream is a fine after supper drink, or night cap. Try one after a meal, while relaxing with a book of poems. We recommend T.S. Eliot, who famously replied, when asked where he found inspiration, “gin and drugs,” and who had a cat named Noilly Prat, which is why it’s in our Poet’s Dream. The vermouth, not the cat.
Stir with ice and serve up. Garnish with a lemon twist.
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