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How to Make the Scofflaw Cocktail, History’s Most Refreshing Whiskey Drink

The Scofflaw Cocktail / Tyler Zielinski

Named for a Prohibition-era term used to describe those who imbibed booze illicitly in the U.S., the Scofflaw cocktail was actually created in Paris, at Harry’s New York Bar. It’s one of several drinks tied to the legendary bar, including the Boulevardier, Between the Sheets and possibly even the Bloody Mary.

The drink’s name came about when a temperance-supporting Boston banker, Delcevare King, held a public contest to create a new derogatory term that could be used to shame those who flouted Prohibition and continued to drink illicitly. King offered a prize of $200—in gold—to the winner.

More than 25,000 entries were submitted, including tongue-twisters like “boozeshevik” and “boozocrat” but the ultimate winner was a portmanteau for one who is scoffing at Prohibition laws, or “scofflaw.”

The contest gained considerable press, eventually leading a bartender named Jock at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris to sarcastically create an alcoholic cocktail poking fun at the newly minted American term. The Scofflaw became a hit, in part due to its tongue-in-cheek title, and was eventually canonized in owner Harry MacElhone’s seminal recipe book, ABC of Mixing Cocktails.

While the cocktail’s formula was nothing groundbreaking, it is an early example of a tradition that persists today: bartenders spending as much time coming up with funny names for drinks as they do the recipes themselves.

What’s in a Scofflaw cocktail?

The Scofflaw consists of rye or bourbon, dry vermouth, grenadine and lemon juice. Early printed variations went lighter on the grenadine and lemon, but modern variations like the one below tend to go heavier on these ingredients to bring out the classic sour profile of the drink and balance the whiskey’s heat. Dry vermouth acts as kind of a binding ingredient that softens the drink’s overall profile.