I remember the first time I ordered a Japanese cocktail. I expected some kind of sake or shochu based drink with green tea. What I got instead was a stiff, complex and nutty drink which had nothing to do with Japan. It quickly became one of my favorites.
The drink first appeared in Jerry Thomas’s legendary cocktail manual How to Mix Drinks with no additional details. Cocktail writer and historian David Wondrich David Wondrich surmises in Esquire that the drink was named in honor of Tateishi Onojirou Niriyuki, “Tommy,” a 17 year old interpreter and one of the youngest members of the Japanese diplomatic mission sent to the United States in 1860 as the Tokugawa period was ending.
Tommy even had a (racist) polka song in his honor!
Wives and maids by scores are flocking
Round that charming, little man,
Known as Tommy, witty Tommy,
Yellow Tommy, from Japan.
– Likely Terrible Polka Song
Anyway, Tommy apparently was the life of the party, and frequently visited Thomas’s bar. Thomas named the cocktail in Tommy’s honor.
- 2 oz Cognac
- .5 oz Orgeat Syrup
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Add all ingredients to a shaker, stir and strain
- Garnish with a lemon twist