Harvard Cocktail Drink

Harvard

If you’re looking for a sophisticated sip to brighten your day, this Harvard Cocktail recipe is precisely what you need! It’s a delightful drink, vintage yet still approachable by the modern drinker, and it’s quite easy to make.

Harvard Cocktail Recipe

Savor the autumn chill with this Harvard Cocktail recipe! The blend of Cognac, vermouth, and a sprinkle of bitters makes it an elegant choice for an apéritif drink.

Prep time:

1 minute

Mixing time:

1 minute

Servings:

1

Calories:

230 kl

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Cognac
  • oz sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 1 barspoon gum syrup, optional
  • Ice cubes
  • Soda water, top up
  • Cherry and lemon twist, for garnish, optional

Equipment

  • Mixing Glass
  • Stirrer or Bar Spoon
  • Cocktail Strainer
  • Martini Glass / Coupe Glass

Instructions

  • Prep Glass: Fill your Martini glass or cocktail coupe with ice. Set it aside.
  • Add Bitters: Pour 2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters into the mixing glass.
  • Add Gum Syrup (optional): if using, add 1 barspoon gum syrup.
  • Add Vermouth: Measure and pour 1½ oz sweet Vermouth into the mixing glass.
  • Add Cognac: Add 2 oz Cognac to the mix.
  • Add Ice and Stir: Fill the mixing glass with ice. Using a bar spoon or a long stirrer, stir well (for about 15-20 seconds).
  • Strain: Take your Martini glass or cocktail coupe and discard the ice. Using the cocktail strainer, strain the mixture into the chilled glass.
  • Add Soda Water: Top up the drink with a splash of soda water.
  • Garnish: Place an orange twist or a cherry into the glass for garnish.

Notes

Substitutes:

  • Cognac: If you don't have Cognac on hand, you can use any type of brandy as a substitute. For a smoky twist, try using whisky instead (see “Rob Roy” cocktail). Considering this drink is from the Manhattan family, bourbon could also work as a substitute (see “Manhattan” cocktail).
  • Sweet Vermouth: You could try a fortified wine like port or sherry (Oloroso, Palo Cortado, or Pedro Ximenez for example) for a different flavor profile. Dry vermouth can also be used for a less sweet cocktail, although it will certainly result in quite a different flavor profile
  • Angostura Bitters: Other bitters can be used to change the flavor. Orange bitters add a citrusy note, while Peychaud's bitters give a lighter, floral taste.
  • Gum Syrup: if you feel the need to sweeten your cocktail a bit but don’t have gum syrup available, a 2:1 simple sugar syrup (2 parts sugar for 1 part water) will do the trick as well.

Making a Pitcher of Harvard Cocktail:

  • Scale: To make a pitcher that serves 8, multiply all the ingredients by 8. That would be 16 oz of Cognac, 12 oz of sweet vermouth, 16 dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters, and ⅔ oz of gum syrup (if using).
  • Mix: In a large pitcher, combine the bitters, sweet vermouth, bitters, and gum syrup (if using). Add fill the pitcher with ice and stir well.
  • Serve: Strain the mixture into chilled martini glasses and top each glass up with a splash of soda water. Garnish with a cherry or lemon twist, and serve immediately.
  • If you have any leftovers, strain them immediately as well. Store in the fridge with no ice, in an airtight container. It will be kept for about 10 days.

Making it Non-Alcoholic:

  • Cognac Substitute: Use a non-alcoholic brandy substitute; these are available and reasonably mimic the brandy's rich flavors. You can also use unsweetened red grape juice or strongly brewed cold rooibos tea
  • Sweet Vermouth Substitute: Opt for a non-alcoholic sweet vermouth substitute. You can also try using non-alcoholic red wine, in which case you’ll probably need to add a bit of sugar to the final drink. To recreate the spiciness of the vermouth, you can still use bitters such as Angostura: 2 dashes of bitter in an otherwise alcohol-free drink won’t raise the overall ABV of the drink. The drink will indeed chemically contain a drop of alcohol, but won’t make you intoxicated at all. Depending on your reason for not drinking alcohol and your degree of tolerance on the topic, this can also be a suitable option.
  • Proceed As Usual: Use these non-alcoholic substitutes instead of the regular ingredients, follow the original steps, and enjoy a non-alcoholic version. Depending on your choice of ingredients, you may have to adjust the sweetness of the drink afterward. We recommend you start with the lowest dose of sugar, and then add some more in the form of sugar or gum syrup after tasting the drink (if necessary).

Making it Vegan:

  • Garnish: Ensure that your garnish is vegan-friendly. Some maraschino cherries are processed with animal products, so look for brands that specify they're vegan.
  • Cognac and Vermouth: Most cognacs and vermouths are vegan, but some brands may use animal products in processing. Check with the manufacturer if you're unsure.

Nutrition Facts

Calories
230
% Daily Value*
Sodium
 
9
mg
0
%
Carbohydrates
 
12
g
4
%
Sugar
 
8
g
9
%
Potassium
 
47
mg
1
%
Protein
 
0.2
g
0
%
Calcium
 
5
mg
1
%
Iron
 
0.5
mg
3
%

 

Harvard Cocktail Drink

Harvard Cocktail Recipe

Gavin Wrigley Written by Gavin Wrigley
Jump to Video
Savor the autumn chill with this Harvard Cocktail recipe! The blend of Cognac, vermouth, and a sprinkle of bitters makes it an elegant choice for an apéritif drink.
Prep time: 1 minute
Mixing time: 1 minute
Servings: 1
Calories: 230

Ingredients
 

  • 2 oz Cognac
  • oz sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 1 barspoon gum syrup - optional
  • Ice cubes
  • Soda water - top up
  • Cherry and lemon twist - for garnish, optional

Equipment

  • Mixing Glass
  • Stirrer or Bar Spoon
  • Cocktail Strainer
  • Martini Glass / Coupe Glass

Instructions

  • Prep Glass: Fill your Martini glass or cocktail coupe with ice. Set it aside.
  • Add Bitters: Pour 2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters into the mixing glass.
  • Add Gum Syrup (optional): if using, add 1 barspoon gum syrup.
  • Add Vermouth: Measure and pour 1½ oz sweet Vermouth into the mixing glass.
  • Add Cognac: Add 2 oz Cognac to the mix.
  • Add Ice and Stir: Fill the mixing glass with ice. Using a bar spoon or a long stirrer, stir well (for about 15-20 seconds).
  • Strain: Take your Martini glass or cocktail coupe and discard the ice. Using the cocktail strainer, strain the mixture into the chilled glass.
  • Add Soda Water: Top up the drink with a splash of soda water.
  • Garnish: Place an orange twist or a cherry into the glass for garnish.

Notes

Substitutes:

  • Cognac: If you don't have Cognac on hand, you can use any type of brandy as a substitute. For a smoky twist, try using whisky instead (see “Rob Roy” cocktail). Considering this drink is from the Manhattan family, bourbon could also work as a substitute (see “Manhattan” cocktail).
  • Sweet Vermouth: You could try a fortified wine like port or sherry (Oloroso, Palo Cortado, or Pedro Ximenez for example) for a different flavor profile. Dry vermouth can also be used for a less sweet cocktail, although it will certainly result in quite a different flavor profile
  • Angostura Bitters: Other bitters can be used to change the flavor. Orange bitters add a citrusy note, while Peychaud's bitters give a lighter, floral taste.
  • Gum Syrup: if you feel the need to sweeten your cocktail a bit but don’t have gum syrup available, a 2:1 simple sugar syrup (2 parts sugar for 1 part water) will do the trick as well.

Making a Pitcher of Harvard Cocktail:

  • Scale: To make a pitcher that serves 8, multiply all the ingredients by 8. That would be 16 oz of Cognac, 12 oz of sweet vermouth, 16 dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters, and ⅔ oz of gum syrup (if using).
  • Mix: In a large pitcher, combine the bitters, sweet vermouth, bitters, and gum syrup (if using). Add fill the pitcher with ice and stir well.
  • Serve: Strain the mixture into chilled martini glasses and top each glass up with a splash of soda water. Garnish with a cherry or lemon twist, and serve immediately.
  • If you have any leftovers, strain them immediately as well. Store in the fridge with no ice, in an airtight container. It will be kept for about 10 days.

Making it Non-Alcoholic:

  • Cognac Substitute: Use a non-alcoholic brandy substitute; these are available and reasonably mimic the brandy's rich flavors. You can also use unsweetened red grape juice or strongly brewed cold rooibos tea
  • Sweet Vermouth Substitute: Opt for a non-alcoholic sweet vermouth substitute. You can also try using non-alcoholic red wine, in which case you’ll probably need to add a bit of sugar to the final drink. To recreate the spiciness of the vermouth, you can still use bitters such as Angostura: 2 dashes of bitter in an otherwise alcohol-free drink won’t raise the overall ABV of the drink. The drink will indeed chemically contain a drop of alcohol, but won’t make you intoxicated at all. Depending on your reason for not drinking alcohol and your degree of tolerance on the topic, this can also be a suitable option.
  • Proceed As Usual: Use these non-alcoholic substitutes instead of the regular ingredients, follow the original steps, and enjoy a non-alcoholic version. Depending on your choice of ingredients, you may have to adjust the sweetness of the drink afterward. We recommend you start with the lowest dose of sugar, and then add some more in the form of sugar or gum syrup after tasting the drink (if necessary).

Making it Vegan:

  • Garnish: Ensure that your garnish is vegan-friendly. Some maraschino cherries are processed with animal products, so look for brands that specify they're vegan.
  • Cognac and Vermouth: Most cognacs and vermouths are vegan, but some brands may use animal products in processing. Check with the manufacturer if you're unsure.

What is a Harvard Cocktail?

A Harvard Cocktail is a brandy-based classic cocktail made of Cognac, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and soda water. This cocktail is not particularly difficult to make; it simply requires the ingredients to be stirred together with ice before being strained into a chilled glass. It’s garnished with a maraschino cherry or an orange zest. The Harvard Cocktail is a variant of the Manhattan, but instead of American whiskey, it uses Cognac as its base spirit and features a splash of soda water as a finishing touch.

A side shot of a Harvard cocktail in a cocktail glass on a white coaster placed on a brown placemat surrounded by a bowl, a jiggerand a grey cloth.

What is a Harvard Cocktail made of – The ingredients

The following ingredients are necessary for a Harvard Cocktail:

  • Cognac: This forms the cocktail’s base, providing a complex, slightly fruity flavor.
  • Sweet Vermouth: Adds sweetness and complexity to balance the Cognac.
  • Angostura Bitters: Enhances the flavor profile, adding depth and a hint of spice.
  • Gum syrup: Gum syrup can be used to give an extra hint of sweetness as well as to bring a smoother, thicker texture to the drink.
  • Soda water: This will give the cocktail a bit of fizz and slightly lower the drink’s ABV.
  • Orange Zest: It adds a refreshing citrus note to the cocktail.

Cognac, sweet Vermouth, Angostura aromatic bitters, soda water, and gum syrup laid out on a white bar table

How do you make a Harvard Cocktail?

Our guide provides an easy way for you to make a Harvard Cocktail:

1
<p>Begin by filling a cocktail glass (coupe or Martini style) with ice. Set it aside.</p>

Begin by filling a cocktail glass (coupe or Martini style) with ice. Set it aside.

2
<p>Pour 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters into the mixing glass.</p>

Pour 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters into the mixing glass.

3
<p>If using, add 1 bar spoon of gum syrup. This will give your cocktail a smoother, slightly thicker texture.</p>

If using, add 1 bar spoon of gum syrup. This will give your cocktail a smoother, slightly thicker texture.

4
<p>Add 1,5 ounces of sweet Vermouth. This will balance out the strong flavor of the Cognac, and is used as the sweetening agent in the drink</p>

Add 1,5 ounces of sweet Vermouth. This will balance out the strong flavor of the Cognac, and is used as the sweetening agent in the drink

5
<p>Finally, add 2 ounces of Cognac into the mixing glass. The Cognac serves as the cocktail's base, providing a rich and smooth flavor.</p>

Finally, add 2 ounces of Cognac into the mixing glass. The Cognac serves as the cocktail's base, providing a rich and smooth flavor.

6
<p>Fill the mixing glass with ice.</p>

Fill the mixing glass with ice.

7
<p>Using a bar spoon or a long stirrer, stir well (for about 15-20 seconds).</p>

Using a bar spoon or a long stirrer, stir well (for about 15-20 seconds).

8
<p>Take your Martini glass or cocktail coupe and discard the ice. Using the cocktail strainer, strain the mixture into the chilled glass. This will remove the ice from the drink, preventing any further unwanted dilution to occur.</p>

Take your Martini glass or cocktail coupe and discard the ice. Using the cocktail strainer, strain the mixture into the chilled glass. This will remove the ice from the drink, preventing any further unwanted dilution to occur.

9
<p>Top up the drink with a splash of soda water. This will give the cocktail a bit of fizz and slightly lower the drink's ABV.</p>

Top up the drink with a splash of soda water. This will give the cocktail a bit of fizz and slightly lower the drink's ABV.

10
<p>To garnish, Place an orange twist on the rim of the glass. You can also use a maraschino cherry: you can either drop it directly into the glass, or use a nice cocktail pick to hold it.</p>

To garnish, Place an orange twist on the rim of the glass. You can also use a maraschino cherry: you can either drop it directly into the glass, or use a nice cocktail pick to hold it.

History and Origin of the Harvard Cocktail

It’s widely believed that the cocktail was named in honor of the prestigious Harvard University, probably by an enthusiastic alumnus or perhaps a bartender who admired the institution.

The first written record of the Harvard Cocktail appears in George J. Kappeler’s book “Modern American Drinks – How to Mix and Serve All Kinds of Cups and Drinks” published in 1895. The original recipe is pretty close to the one we’re presenting you with today as it called for equal parts of Cognac and Italian vermouth, a dash of gum syrup, three dashes of Angostura bitters, and a fill-up of seltzer. It was likely served longer and with plenty of seltzer, making it more like a Spritz or Americano type of drink. The version we present you with today is closer to a Manhattan, and we believe more fitted to the modern palate.

A Harvard cocktail, shot from above, in a cocktail glass on a beige surface surrounded by Cognac, sweet Vermouth, Angostura aromatic bitters, soda water, and sugar cubes.

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FAQ

How many calories does a Harvard Cocktail contain?
A standard serving of a Harvard Cocktail contains approximately 150-200 calories. However, this can vary depending on the specific ingredients used and their quantities.
How strong is a Harvard Cocktail?
The strength of a Harvard Cocktail can vary based on the ratio of alcohol to mixers. Typically, it has an Alcohol By Volume (ABV) of around 20-22%, translating to 40-44 proof. This makes it a moderately strong cocktail.
What type of alcohol is used in a Harvard Cocktail?
The primary alcohol used in a Harvard Cocktail is Cognac (or brandy) alongside sweet vermouth.
In what kind of glass is a Harvard Cocktail served?
Traditionally, a Harvard Cocktail is served in a chilled cocktail glass. It can either be served in the “triangular” kind of glasses (Martini glasses) or in the rounder ones (coupe glasses).
What does a Harvard Cocktail taste like?
A Harvard Cocktail offers a complex flavor profile, offering both dry and herbal notes. The Cognac provides rich, fruity notes, while the vermouth adds herbal undertones. The addition of bitters gives it depth and an extra touch of spices.
What is the ratio of ingredients in a Harvard Cocktail?
The typical ratio for a Harvard Cocktail is 2 parts Cognac or brandy to 1,5 part sweet red vermouth and two of Angostura bitters.
How is the Harvard Cocktail served with ice?
A Harvard Cocktail is usually stirred with ice and then strained into the serving glass, without ice this time. This method chills the drink without diluting it too much.
Is there any particular time or occasion when serving a Harvard Cocktail is best?
The Harvard cocktail makes a great apéritif drink, as well as a great after-dinner one if you’re looking for something that’s not too strong to end the night.

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