The Scofflaw Cocktail is a classic whiskey cocktail that is absolutely delicious! The combination of rye whiskey, grenadine, dry vermouth and lemon juice seems surprising at first, but combines to create a truly tasty sip. It's packed with flavor, but still a super refreshing drink.
This Prohibition-era invention is honestly one of my favorite whiskey drinks. The bright citrus and sweetness of the grenadine really bring out its warmth, and the vermouth complements the grassy notes of the rye.
If you enjoy this drink, the Champs Élysées cocktail will also be right up your alley! The Little Italy is another great option without citrus. For a more citrusy option, try out this delicious Blood Orange Whiskey Sour.
History of the Scofflaw Cocktail
This rye cocktail was invented in 1924 at Harry's New York Bar in Paris. Although unclear who created it, rumor has it that a bartender named Jock first mixed this classic drink. Harry's Bar was a popular destination for American expatriates and tourists seeking refuge from the Prohibition, when alcohol was banned in the U.S.
The term "scofflaw" itself came about from a contest held by Delcevare King, a prominent Prohibitionist. He wanted to create a term that would shame those who drank alcohol despite the laws, and "scofflaw" was the winning entry. It combines the words "scoff" (meaning to laugh at) and "law."
The word seemed like the perfect name for this drink, made with both American and French spirits. The cocktail was a huge hit at Harry's. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, it made its way into popularity in the U.S. as well.
Here are the ingredients you'll need for the Scofflaw Cocktail recipe:
- Rye Whiskey - I've used the New Orleans classic, Sazerac Rye Whiskey. Look for a straight rye, which means it has been aged at least two years and is not mixed with any other spirits.
- Dry Vermouth - Dry vermouth has white wine as the base, and it has less sugar added than sweet vermouth. I've used Noilly Prat vermouth in this drink, which is delicious and definitely recommended.
- Lemon Juice - Preferably freshly squeezed for the brightest flavor.
- Grenadine - This pomegranate syrup is a bar staple. I used Barsmith brand grenadine.
- Orange Bitters - Orange flavored bitters complement this cocktail perfectly.
Here are some ways you can substitute the ingredients in this cocktail:
- Whiskey - Use a bourbon or Canadian whiskey instead. The flavor profile will be different and won't have the same bite, but will still be delicious. You can even try a reposado tequila.
- Vermouth - Lillet Blanc or even a dry white wine can be used in place of the vermouth.
- Grenadine - Try using a mix of pomegranate juice and simple syrup if you don't have grenadine. Or, try a different flavor of syrup, like strawberry.
- Bitters - Instead of orange bitters, try Angostura bitters or Peychaud's bitters.
Here are some variations on this recipe:
- Virgin - Try using Ritual whiskey alternative along with Lyre's Aperitif Dry to make this without alcohol.
- Keto Friendly - there is no true keto-friendly grenadine since it's made with pomegranate juice, but DaVinci sugar-free cherry syrup would make a pretty good substitute.
- Different fruits - To add some extra layers of flavor, try muddling whole fresh fruit like blackberries, raspberries, or pomegranate in your mixing glass.
You'll need a few basic cocktail tools for this recipe. Grab a cocktail shaker, strainer, and a cocktail serving glass. I've used a Viski Raye Nick & Nora glass.
Any stemmed glass works great, just be careful of using too big of a glass! Like with most Prohibition-era drinks, this is a small size, just under 4½ ounces, so it ends up looking tiny in a big glass.
For the twisty orange peel garnish, a channel knife is the easiest to use. You can also use a vegetable peeler along with a cutting board and a paring knife to create the long strip of peel. A bar spoon or straw is also nice to have to create the spiral shape.
Start out with the garnish. Use a channel knife to create a long strip of orange peel, or you can use a vegetable peeler and clean up the edges with a sharp paring knife. Twist the strip of peel around the end of a bar spoon or straw, and let it set while you make the drink.
Then, add the lemon juice and grenadine to your cocktail shaker.
Next, add in the dry vermouth, and then the whiskey.
Fill the shaker with ice, and shake well, about 15-20 times.
Add the orange peel garnish to the edge of the serving glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Serve and enjoy!
Hint: Try chilling your glass in the fridge for about 30 minutes beforehand. Or, fill it with ice water to chill while you mix up the recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
This tasty classic drink combines rye whiskey and dry vermouth with grenadine, lemon juice and orange bitters.
If you find the cocktail too sweet, you can reduce the amount of grenadine or increase the amount of lemon juice. If you find the cocktail too sour, you can add a bit more grenadine or use less lemon juice.
The traditional garnish for a Scofflaw is an orange twist. You can either serve it with the orange peel resting on the side of the glass, or just squeeze the peel to express the citrus oils over top of the drink.
To make a big batch of this recipe for a party, you can partially pre-make it. Mix together the whiskey, vermouth, grenadine and orange bitters beforehand in a pitcher, along with about ½ ounce of water per cocktail. Keep the pitcher in the fridge to chill.
Then, you can either juice the lemons as you serve each cocktail, or juice them all within an hour before the party starts and mix the juice into the pitcher. (If the lemon juice sits around too long, it will oxidize and have less of a fresh flavor.) Pour about 4½ ounces of liquid into each glass to serve. Cheers!
- Orange Peel
- Create a long strip of orange peel with a channel knife, or use a vegetable peeler and clean up the edges with a sharp paring knife.
- Twist the strip of orange peel around the end of a bar spoon or straw and let it set while you make the drink.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker.
- Fill the shaker with ice and shake well, about 15-20 times.
- Add the orange peel garnish to the edge of the serving glass.
- Strain the drink into the glass. Serve and enjoy!