Affinity Cocktail

Affinity Cocktail.

The Sidewalk Cocktail, now known as the Affinity Cocktail, is similar to the Rob Roy but quite different. We look at how it came about.

30 ml Johnny Walker Black Label
30 ml Moot vermouth
30 ml Dolin vermouth

Preparation: Stirred. Sprinkle with a lemon zest.

Alternatively and currently preferred by us:

30 ml Johnny Walker Black Label whiskey
30 ml Antica Torino vermouth rosso
30 ml Routin Blanc vermouth
(lemon zest)

The first publication of the Affinity Cocktail in a book was in Jacob A. Didier’s “The Reminder” in 1909. The Affinity Cocktail is a variant of the Rob Roy, and we described it in more detail there. It consists of equal parts scotch, Italian and French vermouth. For the sake of simplicity, our statistical analysis is duplicated here:

Base spirit

Affinity - Base spirits.
Affinity – Base spirits.

The base spirit of an affinity cocktail is clearly defined: It is a scotch, even if it is occasionally stated that you should (generally) use a whisky.


Affinity - Vermouth.
Affinity – Vermouth.It is the same with vermouth. A combination of Italian and French vermouth is always used. Only from 1960 onwards is one not quite so sure, but to use only Italian vermouth in an affinity cocktail is nonsense.

Ratio of whisky to vermouth

Affinity - Ratio of whisky to vermouth.
Affinity – Ratio of whisky to vermouth.

Interestingly, the Affinity Cocktail does not show such a pronounced increase in the ratio over time. In principle, it is always made from equal parts of Scotch, Italian and French vermouth, which explains the average ratio of whisky to vermouth of 0.5.

Liqueur and sugar syrup

Unlike the Rob Roy, no liqueur or sugar syrup is ever used in an Affinity Cocktail.


Affinity - Bitters.
Affinity – Bitters.

In about 70 per cent of all cases, an Aromatic Bitter, or as belonging to this group, an Angostura Bitter, is recommended, so that one can assume that this type of bitter is to be used by default. As a deviation, it is suggested to use Pechaud’s bitters, orange bitters or even Campari, or even to do without a bitter altogether. But these exceptions were only ever present for a relatively short period of time and failed to gain acceptance.

Zest and garnish

Affinity - Garnish.
Affinity – Garnish.

You can see that initially an affinity cocktail was almost always sprinkled with a lemon zest and served with a cherry. With Prohibition, the cherry disappeared, after which it is only added in around 30% of cases. The use of a lemon zest decreased steadily after Prohibition, also to around 30%.


The Affinity Cocktail is clearly distinguishable from a Rob Roy. In a Rob Roy, one uses an Italian vermouth, in the Affinity Cocktail a combination of Italian and French.

Rob Roy: Scotch + Italian vermouth (French optional) (+ bitters) (+ garnish: lemon zest, cherry or olive).

Affinity Cocktail: Scotch + Italian vermouth + French vermouth + bitters (+ garnish: lemon zest, cherry)

Historical overview

The Sun, 28. October 1907, page 4, Live Topics About Town.
The Sun, 28. October 1907, page 4, Live Topics About Town. [7]

But let us now turn to the historical context. The Affinity Cocktail is mentioned in newspaper articles before its recipe is published in a book. An article appeared in the New York Sun on 28 October 1907: “There’s another new cocktail on Broadway. They call it the Affinity. After drinking one, surviving experimenters declare, the horizon takes on a roseate hue, the second brings Wall street to the front and center proffering to you a quantity of glistening lamb shearings; when you’ve put away the third the green grass grows up all around birds sing in the fig trees and your affinity appears. The new ambrosia contain these ingredients: One medium teaspoonful of powdered sugar, one dash of orange bitters, one jigger of Scotch whisky and a half jigger of Italian vermouth. These are shaken in cracked ice, cocktail fashion, until thoroughly blended and cooled, then strained and quickly served.” [2] [7]

The ” glistening lamb shearing” probably refers to investors speculating with shares without insider knowledge and being symbolically sheared [23] and becomes understandable against the background of the financial crisis of 1907, which another newspaper article also highlights; we will go into more detail there.

This article was subsequently published in other newspapers as well, including the Washington Post on 29 October 1907 [1] [2] or the Los Angeles Herald on 7 February 1908. [3] The Perth Amboy Evening News of 2 November 1907 shortened the first part of the text and simply wrote: “They say that, if you drink enough “affinity cocktails,” the face of your true affinity will appear before your eyes. The recipe is as follows: …[4]

The Butler Weekly Times, 7. November 1907, page 5, Broadway's Newest Cocktail, Affinity.
The Butler Weekly Times, 7. November 1907, page 5, Broadway’s Newest Cocktail, Affinity. [5]

The Butler Weekly Times of 7 November 1907 publishes a slightly different text with reference to the New York American: “”The Affinity” is the name of the newest cocktail on Broadway. This is the way they make it along the Great White Way: One teapoonful of powdered sugar, one dash of orange bitters, one jigger of Scotch whisky, one half jigger of Italian vermouth. Stir in cracked ice until thoroughly blended and cooled, then drink, then – Well, then the pianola sounds as good as the symphony orchestra. The second one convinces you that trust companies and saving banks are solvent and you want to put your money back. If you take three it seems like summer, otherwise you’d buy your wife – or the affinity – a new fur coat. Then its time to stop. It moved the poet to the following:
In its glistening depth is the light of her eyes.
In its taste is her honey kiss.
There’s a victor’s crown for the man who tries
To build me another like this.
If you put another bright red cherry in the last one you will feel like a Belmont as you ride home in Subway.” [5]

This Butler Weekly Times text also appeared, for example, in The Hartford Courant, as early as 29 October 1907, [2] [9] without the concluding sentence in the Omaha Daily Bee as early as 1 November 1907, [6] or even more abridged in the Daily Public Ledger in Kentucky. [8]

Broadway, north of West 46th Street, night view of upper part of Times Square. Autumn 1920.
Broadway, north of West 46th Street, night view of upper part of Times Square. Autumn 1920. [18]

The text needs explanation. Broadway was also called the “Great White Way” because the signs there were illuminated with electric lights and shone brightly. So Broadway soon became known throughout the world as the Great White Way. The journalist Will Irving described this aptly in 1927 with: “Mildly insane by day, the square goes divinely mad by night. For then on every wall, above every cornice, in every nook and cranny, blossom and dance the electric advertising signs . . . . All other American cities imitate them, but none gets this massed effect of tremendous jazz interpreted in light.” [17]

A crowd forms on Wall Street during the 1907 banker panic.
A crowd forms on Wall Street during the 1907 banker panic. [22]

The part of the text with the critical reference to trust companies and savings banks refers to the so-called Panic of 1907. This refers to a financial crisis in the USA in 1907. The prices of the New York Stock Exchange fell by almost half at that time, compared to their peak in 1906. The USA was in a recession and so a panic arose, which led to a bank run as many investors wanted to withdraw their deposits. The crisis spread throughout the country and led to the bankruptcy of many small banks and businesses. [9] [21]

August Belmont in 1904.
August Belmont in 1904. [20]

The “Belmont” is August Belmont Jr., whom we have already reported on in connection with the Belmont Cocktail. He was a wealthy banker and founded the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), which operated the New York underground he financed and built. The newspaper report seems to foreshadow an important bit of trivia, as the Belmont Hotel, built by August Belmont, opened in 1908. In its basement, August Belmont had a private underground stop built. He was the only person who ever owned a private underground car. He called it Minola. His wife commented that one could easily get used to having one’s own private underground car. [19]

The term “affinity” was on everyone’s lips at the time. For example, it was used on Valentine’s cards and there was a popular music title in 1907 called “Molly McGinnity, You’re My Affinity”. [9] The term could perhaps be translated into “special love”, but it also stands for kinship, soul mates, elective affinity, for example.

But is it a Rob Roy?

Interestingly, the Affinity Cocktail in these newspaper articles was nothing other than an ordinary, whiskey-heavy Rob Roy, because it lacked the French vermouth called for in the later recipe books. So it seems that the Affinity cocktail underwent a transformation only after its invention, namely by adding French vermouth to distinguish it from the Rob Roy.

But there is a third downer. Actually, the Affinity Cocktail should not be called Affinity at all, but should be addressed as the Sidewalk Cocktail, because it appeared under this name six years earlier. But sometimes it happens that a newer name becomes established, as in this case.

The Sidewalk Cocktail – A Predecessor of the Affinity Cocktail

The Sun, New York, 27. June 1901, page 6, Sidewalk Cocktail is New.
The Sun, New York, 27. June 1901, page 6, Sidewalk Cocktail is New. [10]

The New York Sun reported on 27 June 1901: “SIDEWALK COCKTAIL IS NEW. Named for Its Horizontaling Effect on Erect Pedestrians. For the information and guidance, as they say in the Regular army, of those who make it their business to keep up to date in the matter of drinks, hard and soft, the announcement is here made that the latest summer drink yet compounded is the “sidewalk cocktail.” It is pleasing and cooling and insidious; and in some cases overpowering. It tickles and flirts with one’s palate in such shameless fashion that unless the drinker is more than ordinarily level headed he will be forced to capitulate after about the fourth round. It was owing to these characteristics of the drink that it was named the “sidewalk cocktail” by its original compounder, the head barkeeper at the Hotel Netherland. “I have seen several good men and true put on the sidewalk by about three or four of those fellows,” said the original compounder yesterday, “and so I thought ‘sidewalk cocktail’ would be a good name for it. If you don’t like the name, however, you can call it anything you like.” Coroner’s Physician Dr. Philip F. O’Hanlon is really responsible for the compounding of the “sidewalk cocktail.” He and three or four friends, most of whom were doctors, dropped into the Netherland on Tuesday evening to have something cooling. Nobody seemed to know just exactly what he wanted. Scotch high balls and rye high balls and gin rickeys and whiskey sours and hillycock coolers were suggested, but they didn’t suit. “We’ve been drinking those things for years.” said Dr. O’Hanlon. “Let’s have something brand new – something that is a rare combination of cold and hot stuff. Here, Mr. barkeeper, you’re a genius in your line; give us something in the way of a brand new, newer-before-heard-of drink.” “In a moment, sir,” said the barkeep, and he turned about to survey the bottles on the buffet. Letting is eye run from one to another he finally took down four and began to compound. In a few moments a drink was ready and tossed off. “That’s a hillylooloo,” said Dr. O’Hanlon. “It’s a tickler all the way down,” said another medical man. “Taste’s like a combination of champagne cup and rum punch. It’s the greatest ever,” said another of the party. “What do you call it?” said Dr. O’Hanlon. “Call it what you like, sir,” said the barkeep. “I wont name it until I see what the effect is.” Several more of the same were ordered and two or three of the party concluded that it would be handier to dine at the Netherland than it would to go home. At this stage of proceedings Dr. O’Hanlon said that, while it was the finest drink out, he had two or three calls to make and must be going. He walked out of the hotel and jumped into his gig, leaving word that he would be back later to inquire if his friends had had a good dinner. When the doctor returned, he couldn’t find out anything about either his friends or their dinner, and so he strolled in to the café to tell the barkeeper that he was the greatest compounder of drinks that ever happened. “I’ve got a name for it now,” said the barkeeper. “I saw how it worked on a couple of your friends and henceforth it shall be known as the ‘sidewalk cocktail.’ ” “Thank heaven, I wasn’t around when you named it,” said Dr. O’Hanlon. “My private, public and professional repitation would have been ruined. “But what the deuce is there in it?” “That promises to be a very popular drink, doctor,” said the barkeeper, “and you are the only man on earth to whom I would tell the ingredients. The cocktail is made of Scotch whiskey, French vermouth, Italian vermouth, and dashes of orange and Angostura bitters.” “But what are the proportions?” asked the doctor. “Now you are asking questions again,” said the barkeeper, “but I might as well tell you. Take one-third each of Scotch whiskey and the two vermouths, and then sprinkle a little of the orange and a little of the Angostura bitters. The scheme of the compound is this: You have Scotch whiskey as your base, and then you have a dry and sweet cordial and a dry and sweet bitters. It struck me that a drink built on those lines ought to be fairly palatable. Judging from the first ones I have made, I guess I was right.” Dr. O’Hanlon made a note of what he had heard, and yesterday everybody about the Coroner’s office and, in fact, all over the Criminal Courts Building, to say nothing of the district in which Dr. O’Hanlon lives, was drinking sidewalk cocktails.[10]

Incidentally, a coroner in Anglo-Saxon legal circles is “an investigating officer who, in cases of doubtful or unnatural manner of death or in catastrophic cases, determines the identity of the deceased and the cause of death in a legal procedure“.[16]

Hotel Netherland, around 1923.
Hotel Netherland, around 1923. [13]

The Chicago Tribune also reports on the Sidewalk Cocktail on the same day and adds an important note to the story. Instead of “the head barkeeper at the Hotel Netherland“, Chicago becomes more specific and replaces this text passage with “Mr. Johnson of Rector’s“. [11]

The “Hotel New Netherland” was located on the north-east corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan, on the southern corner of Central Park. Built in 1892-1893 for William Waldorf Astor, it was 71 metres high and, at 17 storeys, the tallest hotel in the world at the time. It was considered a very modern luxury hotel. In 1908 it was renamed “Hotel Netherland” and demolished in 1927. [12]

Rector's, around 1909.
Rector’s, around 1909.[15]

However, Rector’s, which opened in 1899, was located elsewhere, on West 44th Street, [14] right next to the Hotel Cadillac, where Hugo Richard Ensslin worked. One must therefore ask oneself whether the Chicago Tribune has not made a mistake here, and whether the reference to Mr. Johnson is true. Perhaps, however, Rector’s was a different location. In any case, we consider the New York Sun’s statement to be more credible, since it reported on events in its own city.

  1. https://wiki.webtender.com/wiki/Affinity Affinity.
  2. https://homebars.barinacraft.com/post/89976638713/affinity-cocktail-history-and-drink-recipes The Affinity Cocktail – Scotch Whisky And Vermouth Find True Love.
  3. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042462/1908-02-17/ed-1/seq-2/#date1=1789&index=0&rows=20&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&words=AFFINITY+AFFINITY%27COCKTAIL+COCKTAIL&proxdistance=5&date2=1963&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=Affinity+cocktail&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1 Los Angeles Herald, 17. February 1908, page 2. The New “Affinity” Cocktail.
  4. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85035720/1907-11-02/ed-2/seq-4/#date1=1789&index=2&rows=20&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&words=affinity+cocktails&proxdistance=5&date2=1963&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=Affinity+cocktail&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1 Perth Amboy Evening News, 2. November 1907, page 4.
  5. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89066489/1907-11-07/ed-1/seq-5/#date1=1789&sort=date&date2=1963&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&index=4&words=Broadway+cocktail+Cocktail&proxdistance=5&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=%22cocktail+on+Broadway%22&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1 The Butler Weekly Times, 7. November 1907, page 5. Broadway’s Newest Cocktail, “Affinity”.
  6. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99021999/1907-11-01/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=1789&sort=date&date2=1963&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&index=3&words=Broadway+cocktail&proxdistance=5&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=%22cocktail+on+Broadway%22&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1 Omaha Daily Bee, 1. November 1907, page 6.
  7. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030272/1907-10-28/ed-1/seq-4/ The Sun, New York, 28. October 1907, page 4. Live Topics About Town.
  8. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069117/1908-03-21/ed-1/seq-2/#date1=1789&sort=date&date2=1963&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&index=6&words=Broadway+cocktail&proxdistance=5&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=%22cocktail+on+Broadway%22&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1 Daily Public Ledger, 21. March 1908, page 2. The Latest is the “Affinity Cocktail.”
  9. https://cocktail101.wordpress.com/tag/affinity/ 26. Affinity cocktail (and the Sidewalk), 9. September 2011.
  10. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030272/1901-06-27/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=1789&index=0&rows=20&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&words=cocktail+sidewalk&proxdistance=5&date2=1963&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=sidewalk+cocktail&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1 The Sun. New York, 27. June 1901, page 6: Sidewalk Cocktail is new.
  11. https://www.fultonhistory.com/Newspapers%2023/Chicago%20IL%20Tribune/Chicago%20IL%20Tribune%201901/Chicago%20IL%20Tribune%201901%20a%20-%200623.pdf#xml=https://www.fultonhistory.com/dtSearch/dtisapi6.dll?cmd=getpdfhits&u=3884ea9a&DocId=1422535&Index=Z%3a%5cDISK%20S&HitCount=6&hits=1d+1e+5db+5dc+758+759+&SearchForm=%2fFulton%5fform%2ehtml&.pdf The Chicago Tribune, 27. June 1901, page 3: Here’s a Lovely Drink.
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotel_New_Netherland Hotel New Netherland.
  13. https://www.oldnyc.org/#709076f-a Hotel Netherland, Fifth Avenue at N.E. corner of 59th Street. Demolished in 1927 for construction of Hotel Savoy-Plaza. About 1923.
  14. http://www.theamericanmenu.com/2015/08/rectors.html Rector’s, New York City, 1899-1919. By Henry Voigt, 22. August 2015.
  15. https://www.oldnyc.org/#717498f Broadway, east side, south from 44th Street. Rector’s, in the centre, and Schloss’s, adjoining it, are about to be replaced by the Hotel Claridge. On the N.E. corner of 43rd Street is the Hotel Cadillac. May, 1909.
  16. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coroner Coroner.
  17. https://www.spotlightonbroadway.com/the-great-white-way-0 Spotlight on Broadway.
  18. https://www.oldnyc.org/#723540f-a Broadway, north from West 46th Street, showing a night view of the upper portion of Times Square. At the right is the Seventh Avenue side of this locale. Fall 1920. Hellmich Bros, photo
  19. https://bar-vademecum.de/belmont-cocktail/ Belmont Cocktail.
  20. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:August_Belmont,_Jr.,_Pach_Brothers_photo_portrait.jpg: August Belmont, Jr., American racehorse owner and breeder, Copyright 1904.
  21. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panik_von_1907 Panik von 1907.
  22. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:1907_Panic.png A crowd forms on Wall Street during the Bankers Panic of 1907.
  23. https://forums.egullet.org/topic/100154-affinity-cocktail/ Affinity Cocktail.
Affinity Cocktail.
Affinity Cocktail.

Historical recipes

Siehe Rob Roy.

2012 Tom Sandham: World’s Best Cocktails. Seite 21. Affinity. 30 ml Scotch whisky; 30 ml sweet vermouth; 30 ml dry vermouth; dash orange bitters.

2018 Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, David Kaplan: Cocktail Codex. Seite 278. Affinity. 2 oz. Compass Box Oak Cross scotch; 1/2 oz. Carpano Antica Formula vermouth; 1/2 oz. Dolin dry vermouth; 2 dashes Angostura bitters; garnish: lemon twist.

explicit capitulum


Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

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