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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Cocktails That Complete Me: The 20th Century

By Jason Wilson
20thcentury_opt.jpg The 20th Century. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

In this week's Spirits column, I discussed chocolate-flavored liqueurs, creme de cacao among them. There's nothing really obscure about creme de cacao -- you can find at least one or two brands in just about every liquor store.

But the actual cocktail applications for creme de cacao are limited. And only a few of the ones that do exist are noteworthy. There is, of course, the classic, versatile Alexander. And my Perpetually Rosy cocktail is based on an early 20th-century concoction called the Perpetual cocktail. But beyond that there are very few others.

However, I found one interesting creme de cacao drink during my ongoing campaign to fill in the blanks of my cocktail knowledge by finishing off The List of 100 classic, must-drink cocktails. That drink would the 20th Century.

This cocktail, according to Ted Haigh's fine book, "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails" (Quarry Books, 2009), was named for the futuristic redesign of the 20th Century Limited train in 1937. This drink is sort of like a Corpse Reviver No. 2 that calls for white creme de cacao instead of Cointreau (and also without the dash of absinthe).

Haigh calls the 20th Century an "uncommon" mix of flavors, with tangy lemon followed by "an ethereal sense of chocolate" as the aftertaste. "It's an amazing experience you won't want to miss," he writes. It's a weird cocktail all right. I'd love to hear what adventurous readers think of this.

The original 20th Century recipe calls for 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, which is way too much for me. I also found that if you wanted more chocolate flavor, an extra quarter-ounce of creme de cacao didn't hurt. Also, be sure to use white creme de cacao in this cocktail. In fact, steer toward white creme de cacao in all cases. The brown or dark creme de cacao is generally full of caramel coloring.

20th Century
1 serving

Adapted from "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails," by Ted Haigh (Quarry Books, 2009).

1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Lillet Blanc
1/2 ounce white creme de cacao
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the gin, Lillet Blanc, creme de cacao and lemon juice. Shake well, then strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass.Twist the lemon peel over the drink to release its essence, then drop it in as a garnish.

By Jason Wilson  | February 11, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Spirits  | Tags:  Cocktails That Complete Me, Jason Wilson  
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I was mixing up a couple of these a couple of weeks ago - a very fun and interesting drink! El Floridita also falls into this category, albeit in a different way.

Posted by: Toadman99 | February 11, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Just tried this and have to say that I quite enjoyed it. I think I prefer it with 3/4 oz lemon juice, though. The chocolate was a bit too prominent for me with the suggested ratios.

Posted by: emjohn | February 11, 2011 8:49 PM | Report abuse

Jason - few cocktails w/ creme de cacao? Correct - that's why I've had a bottle in my liquor cupboard for the last 4 years since you recommended it for the winter bar! However this winter I discovered the Aztec - bourbon ( or better still tequila) Benedictine and creme de cacao. Add a dash of chili infused vodka for extra sparkle. Delish. And I need to buy more creme de cacao.

Posted by: paulemcgowan | February 18, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

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