The Monkey Glad, a delicious and classic cocktail

Sometimes a bad idea leaves a great story, and in some cases a great cocktail. This week's cocktail was both.
Once upon a time Russian doctor named Serge Voronoff was looking for ways to reverse the aging process and increase virility in male patients. Did he succeed? No, but his imaginative, unorthodox, ineffective ideas live on as the namesake for a delicious classic cocktail, the Monkey Gland.
Ok, we know that the drink is called the Monkey Gland and it is named after some sort of quack “miracle cure” from the early 20th century. What did this procedure have to do with Monkeys? Quite a bit, actually.
Dr. Voronoff theorized that by grafting live tissue from the reproductive organs of monkeys into the reproductive organs of humans he would be able to cure a wide variety of ailments thereby improving a patient's quality of life.
Dr. Voronoff claimed that in addition to slowing the aging process, his procedure would: improve memory, improve vision, improve sex drive, provide the energy to work longer hours, cure schizophrenia, and prolong life.
Sign me up, that sounds great. It sounded great to both investors and patients and by 1920s Voronoff's “rejuvenation” treatment was gaining popularity in Europe. By the end of the 1920s over 500 men had received the monkey gland treatment in France, and the number of men world-wide treated with the cutting edge transplant technique was in the thousands.
Last time that I checked, we are no longer grafting monkey gland tissue into human patients, what happened? Well, an increasingly sceptical scientific community finally pushed back enough on the claims made by Voronoff and it became clear to the medical community at large that the treatments were ineffective at best, and quite dangerous.
This is an absolutely fascinating chapter in history and several books have been written about the medical charlatans of this era. One such book, Charlatan by Pope Brock is about John R. Brinkley. Brinkley was the American Serge Voronoff, aka the “goat gland doctor” from Milford Kansas. In addition to the book, there is also NUTS!, the 2016 Sundance Film Festival documentary about Brinkley.
The mixology community was gifted a quack “cure all” medical procedure and a funny name, in other words everything that it needed to create a legendary cocktail.
The Monkey Gland cocktail was born in Paris, quite close to where the monkey gland procedure was also born. The legendary Harry MacElhone of Harry's New York bar crafted the first Monkey Gland cocktail which probably had more in the way of medical benefits than the procedure.
Before we make the Monkey Gland it should be noted that Harry has quite the resume. Regular readers of this column may recognize him as the creator of the Bloody Mary, French 75, Sidecar, and the Boulevardier.
Let's grab a shaker and build our very own Monkey Gland. If you can get past the name, this is actually one of the most approachable cocktails of the era. Bright red in color and incredibly complex.
It's the 1920s, so we are going to start with gin. I like Beefeater, but use your favorite gin so long as it is a London Dry gin.
The Monkey Gland calls for equal parts gin and orange juice, I find that most commercial bars use Minute Maid orange juice if they are not using fresh squeezed orange juice.
Do your best to track down a quality grenadine for this cocktail, the best is the stuff that you make at home. Monin, Sonoma Syrup Company, and Fee Brother's all turn out a quality grenadine. If all you have is Rose's then all you have is Rose's. The recipe calls for a teaspoon of grenadine, which is what it is going to take to give us that classic bright red color that the Monkey Gland is known for.
The simple syrup used in this recipe is the standard 1:1 syrup made with cane sugar and water.
The only ingredient that may be difficult to locate is absinthe. If your local spirits retailer does not stock absinthe you may substitute another anise liqueur for absinthe, Pernod and Herbsaint are the most widely available.
I absolutely love this classic cocktail. A few sips and you'll be wondering why it isn't more popular, a few more sips and perhaps you will come up with a new anti-aging surgical procedure that prolongs life. Be sure to write down the name of your procedure, it may be a delicious drink someday.
The Monkey Gland is built in a shaker and served in a chilled coupe or cocktail glass.
Combine in shaker:
• 1 oz. gin
• 1 oz. orange juice
• 1 tsp. grenadine
• 1 tsp. simple syrup (1:1)
• 1/2 to 1 tsp. absinthe
• Shake with ice and strain into chilled glass
• Garnish with twist of orange
Until next week, enjoy responsibly.