The Old Etonian is a gin cocktail dating from the halcyon days of the jeunesse dorée—in other words, from London circa 1925. The cocktail takes its name from Eton College and from the college’s alumni, who are often referred to as Old Etonians, usually wearing their old school tie, which looks like this:
Yes, think Sebastian Flyte and Anthony Blanche and you begin to get the picture. The drink is a classic “straight up” cocktail made with equal parts gin and white Lillet with the addition of orange bitters. So far so good. The final ingredient is a dash of Crème de Noyaux which you have every reason not to have heard of… unless you lived in the 1920s and/or are a fan of Dorothy L. Sayers (and who isn’t?). Crème de Noyaux is an almond-flavored crème liqueur made from apricot kernels, which also flavor the better-known, brandy-based amaretto. Here is where this old school tipple can turn deadly: apricot kernels contain aromatic chemicals that break down into hydrocyanic acid when mixed with water. Crème de Noyaux has appeared in fiction as the vehicle for cyanide poisoning as in the short story by mystery author (and creator of Lord Peter Whimsey) Dorothy Sayers called “Bitter Almonds.” The main character, a wine and spirits salesman, determines that a customer died after drinking the first (oiliest) glass of a bottle of Crème de Noyaux that had stood unopened for 40 years. What’s your poison, old boy?
The Old Etonian
1.5 oz gin
1.5 oz Lillet blanc
2 dashes orange bitters –I recommend Fee Brothers;
2 dashes Crème de Noyaux —new stock, please;