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The Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club Cocktail / Tyler Zielinski

The Pegu Club cocktail is a classic drink that dates to the beginning of the 20th century, if not earlier. It was first published in Harry MacElhone’s 1923 book ABC of Mixing Cocktails, which contains countless other classics from the Scofflaw to the Boulevardier. But rather than an invention of MacElhone’s, the Pegu Club was created as the signature drink of a bar of the same name located in Yangon, Myanmar (then often referred to as Rangoon, in Burma).

The Pegu Club itself was a social club that was founded in the late 1800s, during the British occupation of Burma. Limited to only white patrons, despite professing to accept “all gentlemen interested in general society,” the venue became a hangout primarily for British military officers, officials and dignitaries. It briefly came under Japanese occupation in the 1940s and was converted to a brothel, before later being seized by the military of an independent Myanmar. Functioning for years as ornate office space and housing for government officials, the property recently underwent renovations aimed at turning it into a multipurpose event space.

The Pegu Club Cocktail isn’t particularly popular in its country of origin, due in part to deep-seated colonial-era resentment. But in the cocktail world, it does function as an important early pillar in the sour category of drinks.

Postcard for the original Pegu Club in Yangon, Myanmar

What’s in a Pegu Club Cocktail?

The Pegu Club consists of gin, orange liqueur, lime juice and bitters. This combination puts it in the company of a similar classic cocktail of the time, the Sidecar, and both were notable for using orange liqueur rather than sugar as a balance for fresh lemon or lime juice.

However, many modern drinkers may find it easier to simply think of the Pegu Club Cocktail as a gin margarita.

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