Yes, this pink, frothy cocktail is perfect for a romantic Valentine’s celebration but don’t let its good looks fool you, the Clover Club is a serious drink. And one originally imbibed exclusively by men – specifically the literary, legal, and financial men who, from 1882 until the 1920’s, met once a month in Philadelphia. The drink, named after their gentlemen’s club, was published in the New York Press in 1901, calling for gin, lemon juice, sugar, raspberry syrup, and egg white. Fast forward more than a century, and it’s also the name of a gorgeous cocktail bar in our old neighborhood in Brooklyn, where we first sampled the drink.
The Clover Club — the original dinner club, that is — met at first at Philadelphia’s Girard Hotel before moving into their regular room at the original Bellevue Hotel. Oscar Wilde was invited to its first official gathering, but did not attend. Both ex-President Grover Cleveland and the famed actor of the time Sir Henry Irving were honorary members. The club’s very first menu (as published by Mary Deacon, daughter of one of the founders of the club) was as follows. (No actual Clover Club cocktails here yet, of course.)
A few thoughts about winter raspberries: we don’t often recommend recipes with out-of-season ingredients but let’s be honest, it’s the middle of winter in the Hudson Valley. There’s not much in season, and sometimes you gotta import a little sunshine (literally, it’s been snowing for four days. We need help). So while we wouldn’t recommend making our Strawberry-Lemon Tiramisu this month because that recipe relies on fresh, flavorful berries, for a syrup, imported or frozen berries will work just fine. We actually had a bumper crop of raspberries this summer, so this drink was perfect for using up the last few cups of the berries we froze in July.
At some point in its history, recipes for the Clover Club began to call for grenadine in place of the raspberry but to our taste buds, that’s a poor substitution. A drink this simple needs the sweet-tart freshness that real berries deliver. Paired with gin’s botanicals and fresh lemon juice, it’s more complex than you might expect. The version we had at Clover Club (the bar) also had vermouth in the mix, and we like the dry, slightly bitter note it adds to the drink. (Of course you could leave it out if you prefer.)
The Raspberry Syrup
We like to make enough syrup for several rounds of drinks (because, duh) but you could halve the recipe if you only want enough for a few drinks. The syrup is a cinch to make: just gently simmer the berries, sugar and water for a few minutes, making sure to mash the berries with a muddler or a spoon to extract all the flavor. Once it’s ready, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Lightly press on the solids to extract as much of the liquid as you can but don’t smush too hard or the syrup will become cloudy. You can store the syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.
Egg White or Aquafaba
Many classic cocktails, like the Gin Fizz and Whisky Sour, use egg whites to give the drink a creamy feel and a frothy top. We love how it mellows a drink and gives it a lovely texture, like in our Brown-Sugar Bourbon Cocktail with Thyme and Lemon which we call The Monarch.
A tip for measuring tricky egg whites is to gently beat them with a fork, just enough to break up the protein strands. This makes it easier to measure out the 1/2 ounce needed for each drink. If you’re making two drinks, 1 oz is pretty much a whole large egg white.
If you’re not comfortable with raw egg or just want a vegan option, the liquid from a can of chickpeas, called aquafaba, is a perfect substitute. We found one ounce of aquafaba per drink (instead of the 1/2 ounce of egg white), gave us a nice foamy top. It’s not quite as rich and frothy as the egg white but not bad at all.
The Dry Shake
In order to get the foamiest result in your cocktail, you’re going to want to do a dry shake. That means shaking all the ingredients together for about 15 seconds without ice first. This lets the long protein strands in the egg white begin to tangle and foam, before the ice is added.
Then ice is added and the drink is shaken again for 30 seconds (the second or wet shake), which chills and dilutes it. Once the drink is strained into a glass, it will have a thick frothy layer on top.
Clover Club Cocktail
- 1 1/2 oz. gin recommended: a London Dry Gin like Beefeater
- 1/2 oz. dry vermouth optional
- 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 oz. raspberry syrup (See separate recipe below.)
- 1/2 oz. egg white or 1 oz. aquafaba*
- Garnish: raspberries or a lemon peel twist
- Add the gin, vermouth (if using), lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and the egg white to a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake for 15 seconds.
- Add the ice to the cocktail shaker. Shake again for 30 seconds.
- Strain the drink into a coupe glass. Garnish with fresh raspberries or a lemon twist.
- Fine mesh sieve
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
- 1 cup water
- Add the sugar, raspberries and water to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and mash the berries with a muddler or a spoon. Simmer for 7 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing the berries gently to extract the juice. Allow the syrup to cool, then refrigerate until ready to use. The syrup will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.