Turf Cocktail


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Written By cocktailflavors.com
Turf Cocktail_001

Introduction to the Turf Cocktail

Discover the Turf Cocktail, a sophisticated gem from the pre-Prohibition era. This Martini variant is a treasure trove for those who appreciate botanical and complex flavors. Its intricate blend of gin, dry vermouth, and maraschino liqueur, with hints of absinthe and orange bitters, creates a unique taste experience.

The Turf Cocktail is not just a drink; it’s a journey through history. Its roots trace back to a time when cocktails were an art form. The revival of this vintage libation offers a glimpse into the past, with a flavor that remains timeless.

Whether you’re a cocktail aficionado or new to the world of mixology, the Turf Cocktail is a must-try. Its balance of dry and sweet, with a botanical kick, makes it a perfect aperitif. Let’s delve into the world of this classic cocktail and learn what makes it so special.

Key Facts About the Turf Cocktail

  • Alcohol Volume: Approximately 30% ABV (60 Proof)
  • Calories: Approximately 180 kcal
  • Glass Type: Traditionally served in a chilled Martini glass
  • Typical Garnish: Lemon twist (sometimes a small onion or olive)

Interesting Facts about the Turf Cocktail

  • The Turf Cocktail is a testament to the golden age of mixology, predating even the famed Prohibition era.
  • Its use of absinthe adds a layer of complexity, harking back to a time when the spirit was a staple in cocktail recipes.
  • The cocktail’s name suggests an association with equestrian clubs, where it may have been a popular choice among the elite.

Turf Cocktail Preparation

Tasting Notes on the Turf Cocktail

The Turf Cocktail is a symphony of flavors, with each sip revealing new notes. The gin provides a juniper-forward base, while the dry vermouth adds a herbal touch. Maraschino liqueur brings a subtle sweetness that complements the botanicals.

Its complexity makes it an ideal choice for those who enjoy a drink with depth. The Turf Cocktail suits occasions that call for elegance and sophistication. It’s a perfect conversation starter at dinner parties or a refined choice for a quiet evening at home.

The cocktail’s herbal and citrus notes make it a refreshing option for spring and summer gatherings. However, its robust flavor profile also makes it a comforting choice for cooler months. The Turf Cocktail transcends seasons, appealing to a wide range of palates.

History of the Turf Cocktail

The origins of the Turf Cocktail are as intriguing as its flavor. This storied drink hails from an era when cocktails were crafted with precision and care. It’s believed to have first appeared in bar manuals in the late 19th century, making it a true classic.

The cocktail’s name evokes images of gentlemen’s clubs and horse racing, suggesting a connection to leisurely pursuits of the upper class. The Turf Club, an establishment known for its exclusive clientele, may have played a role in the cocktail’s nomenclature.

Despite its early popularity, the Turf Cocktail faded into obscurity following Prohibition. However, the resurgence of craft cocktails has brought it back into the limelight. Today, it’s celebrated for its historical significance and distinctive taste.

As with many vintage cocktails, the exact origin of the Turf Cocktail is shrouded in mystery. What remains clear is its enduring appeal. The Turf Cocktail has stood the test of time, a testament to the art of mixology.

Turf Cocktail Ingredients

  • Gin (2 oz / 60 ml): The backbone of the cocktail, providing a crisp and juniper-rich base.
  • Dry Vermouth (1 oz / 30 ml): Adds a herbal complexity and balances the gin’s potency.
  • Maraschino Liqueur (1/4 oz / 7 ml): Offers a hint of sweetness and a subtle cherry flavor.
  • Orange Bitters (2 dashes): Contributes a citrusy bitterness that enhances the cocktail’s depth.
  • Absinthe (a dash): Provides an anise note that gives the drink its distinctive edge.
  • Lemon twist: The garnish adds a fresh aroma and a zesty finish to the drink.

Did you know? The Turf Cocktail’s balance of botanicals can be fine-tuned to personal taste, but the classic recipe offers a dry, complex flavor profile that’s perfect as an aperitif.

Turf Cocktail Ingredients

Turf Cocktail Method

Chilling the Glass

Begin by chilling a Martini glass. This can be done by placing it in the freezer or filling it with ice water. A cold glass will keep the cocktail at the perfect temperature.

Combining the Ingredients

In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine the gin, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters, and a dash of absinthe. The ice should be fresh and of high quality to avoid diluting the drink too quickly.

Stirring the Cocktail

Stir the mixture well for about 30 seconds. This not only chills the drink but also ensures that the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Stirring is preferred over shaking for this cocktail to maintain clarity and texture.


Once the cocktail is well-chilled, discard the ice from the Martini glass. Strain the mixture into the glass, taking care to leave the ice behind. A Hawthorne strainer or similar tool can be used for this step.


Finally, garnish the drink with a lemon twist. Express the oils over the cocktail to add an aromatic layer, then drop the twist into the glass or rim it along the edge.

Serving Suggestion for the Turf Cocktail

The Turf Cocktail is traditionally served in a chilled Martini glass. The wide brim of the glass allows the aromas to reach the nose, enhancing the drinking experience. The stem also prevents the hand from warming the cocktail.

For garnishes, a lemon twist is most traditional. It’s important to use a fresh lemon and to carefully twist it to release the essential oils. These oils add a bright, citrusy aroma that complements the botanicals in the drink.

Elevating the Turf Cocktail

Quality Ingredients

Using premium spirits and fresh ingredients can significantly elevate the Turf Cocktail. Select a high-quality gin with a flavor profile that complements the other ingredients.

Proper Technique

Mastering the stirring technique ensures the cocktail is chilled without being overly diluted. A smooth and consistent stir will yield the best texture and temperature.

Attention to Detail

Small details, like chilling the glass and precisely measuring ingredients, make a big difference. Take the time to execute each step with care for a superior cocktail experience.

Elevated Turf Cocktail

Substitutions and Alternatives for the Turf Cocktail

If absinthe is unavailable, pastis or another anise-flavored spirit can be used as a substitute. While the flavor will differ slightly, it will still provide the cocktail’s characteristic licorice note.

For those who prefer a less botanical profile, the amount of dry vermouth can be reduced. Alternatively, a different style of bitters can be used to alter the flavor subtly.

Similar cocktails include the classic Martini or the Martinez. These drinks share gin and vermouth as common ingredients but offer different flavor profiles.

Add a Twist to the Turf Cocktail

For a modern take, try infusing the gin with additional botanicals. Lavender or rosemary can add a unique twist to the cocktail’s flavor.

Experimenting with different garnishes, such as a sprig of thyme or a slice of cucumber, can also introduce new aromas and tastes to the Turf Cocktail.

Consider using a flavored vermouth to add another layer of complexity. A vermouth with citrus or floral notes can complement the cocktail’s existing flavors.

Preferred Liquors for the Turf Cocktail

When selecting a gin, look for brands that offer a balanced botanical profile. London Dry gins are a classic choice, but modern craft gins can also work well.

The quality of the dry vermouth is equally important. Choose a vermouth that is fresh and has a complementary herbal bouquet.

For the maraschino liqueur, Luxardo is a well-regarded brand that provides the authentic cherry flavor essential to the Turf Cocktail.

Similar Cocktails to the Turf Cocktail

The classic Martini is a close relative of the Turf Cocktail. It shares gin and dry vermouth as key ingredients but omits the maraschino liqueur and absinthe.

The Negroni offers a similar botanical complexity with the addition of Campari, providing a bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of the vermouth.

The Aviation is another cocktail that features gin and maraschino liqueur, but with the addition of lemon juice and crème de violette for a floral twist.

Food Pairings to Go with the Turf Cocktail

Classic hors d’oeuvres like smoked salmon canapés or cheese-stuffed mushrooms pair well with the Turf Cocktail. The drink’s botanicals complement the savory flavors.

For a more adventurous pairing, try spicy Thai spring rolls or savory tarts with blue cheese and pear. The cocktail’s complexity can stand up to bold flavors.

Turf Cocktail FAQs

Can I make the Turf Cocktail without absinthe? Yes, but the flavor will be less complex. Consider using a substitute like pastis to maintain the anise note.

Is it possible to make a non-alcoholic version of the Turf Cocktail? While the unique flavors are alcohol-based, you can experiment with non-alcoholic gin and vermouth alternatives for a similar profile.

How important is the stirring technique? Very important. Proper stirring chills the cocktail without adding too much water, preserving the flavors and mouthfeel.

Can I use a different garnish? Yes, while a lemon twist is traditional, feel free to experiment with other citrus peels or herbs to add a personal touch.

What’s the best way to store vermouth? Vermouth should be stored in the refrigerator after opening to maintain its freshness and flavor.

Turf Cocktail_001

Turf Cocktail

A classic cocktail with a complex, botanical flavor, the Turf Cocktail is a pre-Prohibition-era drink that's lesser-known but highly appreciated by connoisseurs of vintage libations. It's a Martini variation that features gin, vermouth, and maraschino liqueur with a touch of absinthe and bitters to add depth.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Cocktail
Servings 1 cocktail
Calories 180 kcal


  • Martini glass
  • Mixing glass
  • Bar spoon
  • Jigger or measuring cup
  • Hawthorne strainer


  • 2 oz Gin
  • 1 oz Dry Vermouth
  • 1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 1 dash Absinthe
  • Lemon twist for garnish


  • Chill a Martini glass by placing it in the freezer or filling it with ice water.
  • Pour the gin, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters, and a dash of absinthe into a mixing glass filled with ice.
  • Stir well for about 30 seconds until well-chilled.
  • Discard the ice from the Martini glass if using it to chill.
  • Strain the mixture into the chilled Martini glass.
  • Garnish with a lemon twist.


The Turf Cocktail is sometimes garnished with a small onion (making it a Gibson variation) or an olive, but the lemon twist is more traditional. The balance of botanicals can be adjusted to taste, but the classic recipe offers a dry, complex flavor profile that's perfect as an aperitif.
Keyword absinthe, Botanical, Classic Cocktail, Dry Vermouth, Gin, Maraschino Liqueur, Martini Variation, Orange Bitters, Pre-Prohibition, Turf Cocktail, Vintage Libations

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