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The bartenders at the savoy were fans of a really esoteric liqueur called Hercules which was basically an avante garde aromatized wine. Esoteric may not be the right word because it implies some kind of roots or a tradition which can’t be tracked down in this case. Hercules was probably a flash in the pan liqueur-health tonic trend akin to the same stunts we see in today’s popular culture like pomegranate juice and kombucha. Well, there is some evidence (and I forget how to reference it) that Hercules hyped the newly popular botanical yerba mate.
Yerba mate is pretty cool so it could be a great cornerstone for an aromatized wine. A good product will need a lot more details but we can use our imaginations and observe flavors mingling in the wild to get some ideas. Yerba mate is classically paired with the menthes and a good Greek menthe would be quite fitting. The two botanicals even seem to compete for attention really well on a one to one ratio. I don’t know of any other liqueur uses of menthe besides the mono creme de menthe and maybe it’s use in some obscure Italian amaros, but the savoy has some really interesting menthe combos besides the Stinger like the:
American beauty (1 dash creme de menthe, 1/4 OJ, 1/4 grenadine, 1/4 french dry vermouth 1/4 brandy)
Caruso cocktail (1/3’s of creme de menthe, gin, and french dry vermouth)
Castle Dip (1/2 apple brandy, 1/2 creme de menthe, 3 dashes of absinthe)
Cold Deck (1/4 creme de menthe, 1/4 italian sweet vermouth, 1/2 brandy)
Ethel Cocktail (1/3 apricot brandy, 1/3 creme de menthe, 1/3 curacao).
And as I tried to collect more recipes the list just keeps going… The savoy people were menthe happy beyond the reaches of my imagination.
So if menthe was another cornerstone within Hercules, then the savoy people would know exactly what to do with it. It is possible that they even got lots of Hercules for free (like many influencer bars do today to promote products) so they had to do something with the stuff. My formula needs more details, true to the original or not. I like the sound of the aromatic mildly psychotropic gruit botanical, yarrow, which has an aromatic meadowy kind of character. It is definitely not as bitter as I thought which means I may have to find another bittering agent. Some star anise may also add some nice savoy style character and some potentially inebriating effects.
I thought I’d ferment my own wine for my Hercules and see what I got. For one gallon of wine I based my must on Knudsen’s organic juices and aimed for an estimated potential alcohol of 10%. I’m going to fortify to an estimated 24% alcohol for something herculean like Campari and aim for a sugar content of 13% like many sweet vermouths according to Amerine’s Technology of Wine Making.
I’m taking botanical suggestions. My fruit wine is fermenting. And I’ll add to the final recipe as time allows. This may need to age a while so patience people!
4 thoughts on “Hercules: a liqueur interpretation, replica or rendering”
i think the aromatization in this recipe was a good idea but the wine base was a stupid idea. any solid rich rose would be a better idea. vergano’s americano is probably a perfect example of the sort of wine base hercules was likely to have. i’d say sugar like sweet vermouth to 170g/l or so. and the quinine should be faint and elegant like lillet or vergano’s luli.
Hello, ive been on the hunt for a ‘hercules’ recipe for a while since a read a cocktail containing it in a 1942 book. Could it be possible if you could give me your recipe for hercules or just the main ingredients so i can create my own please? Much appreciated, Gian
i haven’t touched hercules for a while, but erik has done a lot of work on it over at his underhill lounge blog.
i would posit that hercules probably had the structure of a typical aromatized wine. and its three most probable aromas were yerba mate, peppermint, and because ads say it was pink, fruit aromas that exist in the spaces between, raspberry and strawberry.
the easiest hercules cheater you could make would be to take a bottle of martini rossi rose vermouth and steep in it some yerba mate and some peppermint. i’d cold steep it, but follow the same aroma intensity guidelines as a cup of tea.
whatever you do, let me know how it comes out.
Thanks heaps!! will let you know how i do