The Clover Club is a classic cocktail that hearkens back to a time when men were men, and not afraid to drink a pink cocktail in public. Long before the Cosmopolitan dominated bars and lounges everywhere, two other pink cocktails (the Clover Club and its cousin, the Pink Lady) were being imbibed by every mover, shaker, and go-getter in the land. After we share this authentic old school recipe, we’ll delve into the origins of the Clover Club cocktail, its ascension to the heights of popularity, and its equally quick fall from grace. Cocktail lovers in the 20th Century may have had fickle taste, but trust me, this drink is a forgotten gem, well worth resurrecting.
Clover Club Cocktail
- 1 ½ oz gin
- ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
- ½ oz simple syrup
- ½ oz Chambord or grenadine
- 1 egg white
Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with no ice. Shake for about a minute, to emulsify the egg white. Be very careful to keep a tight grip on the top of your shaker; the shaking of the egg white builds up a lot of pressure in the shaker, and the mixture will want to spill out. Usually this happens all over your clothes and when you aren’t expecting it. Your Clover Club should look rather frothy. Then you can add ice and shake it again. Strain your cocktail out into a chilled glass, and ta-da! There is, the Clover Club. Drink up and enjoy.
To make the cocktail known as a Pink Lady, substitute ½ oz apple jack or apple brandy for simple syrup, and follow the same procedure. Float a mint sprig on top, and you now have a Clover Leaf.
Most of the prep time in making the Clover Club or its sister variation, the Pink Lady, involves separating and subsequently shaking the egg white. Still, this is a cocktail that can be prepared in about three minutes or so.
History of the Clover Club Cocktail
The Clover Club has its roots in a Philadelphia area men’s club of the same name, started in the late 1800s. The group consisted of captains of industry such as bankers and lawyers, and their chief meeting spot was the Bellevue-Stratford hotel. The drink itself is said to have been invented by teenaged bartender Ambrose Burnside Lincoln Hoffman at the Bellevue-Stratford in 1880. According to the Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, the Clover Club became a staple of East Coast bars and hotels, ordered by the jet-setters of the day, “distinguished of the oak-paneled lounge”. The Clover Club was seen in this era as one of the all-time classics, right up there with the Manhattan and Old Fashioned.
As meteoric as the Clover Club rose to the heights of fashion, so it also came tumbling down after Prohibition ended. In 1934, Esquire magazine called it a drink “for pansies”, citing it as one of the dozen worst drinks of the previous decade. Maybe it was the pink color that suddenly put people off, but more likely, it was its close resemblance to the Pink Lady, the latter of which was seen as a drink for mousey secretaries and women. Whatever the case, by the 1950s, the Clover Club had been all but forgotten, another footnote in the annals of cocktail history.
Recently however, the drink has been making a comeback. The new Clover Club establishment in Brooklyn was named after the classic cocktail, and bartenders there make the flagship drink with flourish and care as in days gone by. With the sudden resurgence of interest in old-school cocktails, perhaps there is a second life in the cards for the Clover Club and the Pink Lady.