Tag Archives: whiskey

The William Revisited

On my last post (over a year ago, whoops!) I gave a recipe for ‘The William’, an 1889 recipe for The Only William’s preferred whiskey sour.

At the time I was working on that drink I had to make a guess as to what Schmidt meant by pineapple syrup. I was recently reading Dave Arnold’s “Liquid Intelligence”, and decided to run The William through his formula for creating a balanced cocktail (in terms of ABC, sweetness, and acidity).

Based on the results of that math, it seemed what I needed for the pineapple syrup spot was 10 ml of something twice as sweet and twice as acidic as pineapple juice, or, ideally, 5 ml of something 4 times as sweet and acidic. So I think that when Schmidt referred to pineapple syrup, there’s a good chance he meant pineapple juice that has been reduced to a syrup, instead of pineapple juice with sugar added.

Trying the drink with this new syrup definitely improved it (it wasn’t a bad drink before, but it’s great now). So here’s my corrected recipe:

The William
60 ml whiskey (Bulleit Bourbon)
15 ml lemon juice
15 ml orange juice
5 ml pineapple syrup* (about 5 mL seems right)
Barspoon of superfine sugar
Shake well with ice; strain.

* Pineapple syrup – boil pineapple juice until it reduces to 1/4 it’s original volume.

Repeal Day Cocktail: The William

William Schmidt
“What is the best recipe for a whiskey sour?”

“The finest,” said William [Schmidt], “is what is known as ‘The William.’ Take the juice of half a lemon, juice of a quarter orange, a dash of pineapple syrup and a barspoonful of sugar. Don’t put any seltzer in, for that would spoil it, but add an ordinary drink of whiskey. Then fill the glass with shaved ice and shake it well; serve in a fancy glass, and there you have a drink fit for a king.”

-The Evening World. (New York, NY), 15 Nov. 1889.

In honour of Repeal Day I’m forgoing the Playboy Host & Bar Book and attempting to re-create a pre-prohibition cocktail invented by “The Only William”, William Schmidt, of ‘the bar by the bridge’. Schmidt was a prolific inventor of cocktails, designing hundreds of the course of his career. He was quite creative in naming them, as well, so he must have thought highly of this one to have named it ‘The William’. Strangely, despite bestowing this honour on it, this drink didn’t show up in his 1891 book ‘The Flowing Bowl’; it doesn’t appear in any other publications, paper or online, that I can find either.

The William
2 oz whiskey (Bulleit Bourbon)
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz orange juice
Dash of pineapple syrup* (about 10 mL seems right)
Barspoon of superfine sugar (I ground table sugar up with a mortar and pestle)
Shake well with ice; strain.

At first I tried it with Alberta Premium Rye Whisky, and it was just okay. Then I tried it again with Bulleit Bourbon and it was excellent. The hint of sour from the pineapple worked well with the lemon to give this enough bite to counter the sweetness of the orange and sugar, and the caramel and vanilla notes of the bourbon really shine through.  This one I will make again.

* Pineapple syrup – equal parts sugar and pineapple juice, heat just enough to dissolve the sugar.