Historical Cocktail Recipes To Try Yourself: The Gin Sling

Historical Cocktail Recipes To Try Yourself: The Gin Sling

Steve Manktelow, drink expert from Goat Chelsea, explains how one Victorian pioneered the business of putting ice in cocktails... and using straws too.

Charles Elme Francatelli was born in London, and studied the art of cookery in France before swiftly rising through the ranks to become chief cook to Queen Victoria in 1840.

Using his newfound fame, in 1861 he released The Cooks Guide and Housekeepers & Butlers assistant and to the rear of this tome is a section on cocktails. The first of these is:

No. 1014.-GIN-SLING.

PUT two slices of lemon, and three lumps of loaf-sugar into a tumbler, fill up to the brim with shaves of Wenham Lake ice; add a wineglassful of old gin; stir, and suck through a straw. Note.- I am afraid that very genteel persons will be exceedingly shocked at the words "suck through a straw," but when I tell them that the very act of imbibition through a straw prevents the gluttonous absorption of large and baneful quantities of drink, they will, I make no doubt, accept the vulgar precept for the sake of its protection against sudden inebriety.

Now we live in an age where the provenance of ingredients is important to us, but I've never before seen this in relation to something as mundane as ice. So what exactly is Wenham Lake ice?

Wenham Lake. Image: Paula Stephens/Shutterstock

Wenham Lake is in Massachusetts, sitting just north of Boston. It was home to Frederick Tudor, who on returning from a holiday in the Caribbean in 1803, initially lamented of the frozen wasteland he'd returned to, then had the genius idea of packaging it up and selling this commodity back to the island of endless summer. With this simple idea he invented the ice trade.

Within 20 years, Tudor became known as the ice king, transporting 'Crystal Blocks of Yankee Coldness' as far as South America, Australia, India — and to his Ice Emporium on the Strand, London.

An advert from Lloyd's List, September 1876. © The British Library Board

Originally launched as a means for keeping food cold, and for treats such as ice cream, Tudor quickly realised the best use would be for ice in drinks. He almost single-handedly invented the concept which drove his business — and launched others like the 'straw' industry.

Francatelli, along with all of London society quickly picked up on this trend and a drink without Wenham Lake ice was a drink not worth having.

The Gin Sling especially seemed to be the perfect vehicle for both this relatively new luxury, and something to showcase London’s finest product. His recipe is a little on the punchy side, with the result being more of a sweetened iced gin, whereas the below recipe has increased the volume of the then exotic lemons to create a more cooling drink. The Old Gin mentioned is Genever. I'd recommend a more modern number like Duck and Crutch Gin, to keep it light and summery.

Charles Elme Francatelli's Gin Sling

  • 4 (50ml) Parts Gin
  • 2 Parts Lemon juice
  • 1 part sugar syrup
  • 4 parts water
  • Build over as much ice as possible in a tall glass and garnish with lemon
  • Install a straw (paper or biodegradable of course) to guard against sudden inebriety.

Last Updated 06 August 2018