If you're into thinkin' and drinkin'

Episode 44: The Greatest Show on Earth – Barnum (was right) Cocktail

Barnum Was Right_Cover
Episode #44 features a popular personality from the cocktail era: Mr. PT Barnum. The name of the cocktail refers to Barnum’s supposed famous saying that a “sucker is born every minute.” But even as we look into this cocktail we can’t verify much of anything and even the attribution of that phrase seems off.

Given that Barnum was a temperance speaker from 1850 to his death, an attribution from him directly seems unlikely. We doubt he was making cocktails or ordering cocktails for himself or anyone else. Strangely enough, Jerry Thomas, the bartender who first published his recipes in 1862, owned a saloon beneath Barnum’s American Museum on Broadway in New York and it seems that they did in fact know each other, but Thomas doesn’t have the cocktail in his book which seems unlikely if he was the original creator.

The first place Jay does find the Barnum Was Right Cocktail is in Trader Vic’s cocktail book, published much later than would be expected from a cocktail bearing Barnum’s name. Because of its nonexistence, even by mention, prior, Jay considers Vic Bergeron as the creator of this cocktail. Now lack of evidence isn’t proof of what is actually the case…if anyone knows the origin story to this cocktail better and can point to evidence, we’d love to know it and amend the discussion.

Getting into the conversation of the name of the drink, it appears even that is up for debate. There is no place where we can find “a sucker is born every minute” as being spoken by PT Barnum. In fact, many people suggest that Barnum’s big top competitors at the time told people Barnum said it to discredit him. But even if that were the case or Barnum had said it, the concept goes much further back historically, so it’s not an original idea, having Barnum say it just made it sound better, as was the case with everything he did.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 Ounces gin
  • 1 Ounce apricot-flavored brandy
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

This cocktail was more or less fine. It didn’t offend, it didn’t impress. It merely existed. We all had it and we enjoyed it for what it was, but it comes from the classic style of gin, bitters, and one other ingredient that sets it apart from a Tom Collins or many other drinks we’ve had. It was excellent to try, but for my money, the story here was the best part.

Barnum Was Right Pic
Transition music: Cephalopod by Kevin MacLeod
Closing Music: Global Circus by Kolokon

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