Fiddling about online on Leap Day, I came across a Slate article by Troy Patterson on a cocktail specifically contrived for Leap Day nearly a century ago. It’s called, of course, The Leap Year Cocktail, and is attributed to Harry Craddock of London’s Savoy Hotel in 1928.

Patterson had this to say of the drink:

…the leap year leaves a funny taste in your mouth. Also, it leaves the impression that you can only clear that funny taste out of your mouth by having another sip.

So despite a description that wasn’t exactly what I’d call a resounding recommendation, I decided that since the day comes around only once every four years, making one should be a Sugar + Shake experiment.

The Leap Year Cocktail, originated in 1928 at the Savoy Hotel, as made by Sugar.

Shake seemed to view this as completely my experiment and parked himself comfortably in the living room. He was, however, totally willing to be my taste test guinea pig. And…he liked it! He definitely liked it more than I did, but my taste tends to run a lot sweeter than his. Shake’s thoughts on the Leap Year Cocktail:

“It’s not overtly sweet; it’s well-balanced. I like the citrus, and the botanical taste from the gin—but I wouldn’t use an overly botanical gin. Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire wouldn’t be good. And I would probably spring for a better orange liqueur.”

As for me, I’m down with Patterson on the whole “funny taste, need another sip to fix that” thing, though I can’t agree with his “theory that you could achieve an equivalent taste experience by sucking a Ricola while sipping cold gin.” I didn’t feel the drink had a cough drop flavor at all, just a pleasant fresh lemon taste.

Two notes: I chose to use Plymouth (which was recommended), since, as Shake noted, stronger herbal or vegetal tastes would probably throw this out of whack. And, the only Grand Marnier we have in the house is a tiny sample vial of a special reserve edition that goes for $700 per 750 mL. We haven’t even tasted it yet; we’ve only sniffed at it. So there’s no way I was using that, and therefore had to substitute Patrón orange liqueur. (We do have Cointreau, but fearing that this concoction might be horrendous, Shake pawned off the Patrón on me.)

Here’s the recipe (with some notes of my own), from Slate, though I do suggest you give the article a read for Patterson’s entertaining writing, and for the links to Leap Year Cocktail trivia and history.

The Leap Year Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Plymouth gin
  • ½ ounce Grand Marnier [I used Patrón orange liqueur, and in retrospect would probably try Cointreau, having no GM in the house]
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth [Sugar + Shake choice: Noilly Prat Rouge]
  • Generous ½ ounce lemon juice [Fresh squoze, please!]
  • Lemon twist for garnish

Shake the gin, Grand Marnier, vermouth, and lemon juice with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

The Leap Year Cocktail, originated in 1928 at the Savoy Hotel, as made by Sugar.