pegu club cocktail decorated with lemon zest
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Pegu Club Cocktail

A refreshing, grapefruit-flavored cocktail with a history dating back over a century, the Pegu Club is the perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day. Invented by British colonialists, the Pegu has reached further around the globe than the British Empire ever could. Today, it’s enjoyed worldwide by folks looking for a tart, fruity drink to help beat the heat.

About the Pegu Club

The Pegu Club is a British drink invented around the turn of the century during the height of the British Empire. When the British would colonize a new area, they’d set up a social club for senior government officials, military commanders, and businessmen.

The social club outside Rangoon was called the Pegu Club, and its signature, namesake drink quickly became a local favorite.

The first mention of the Pegu Club house cocktail, outside of the club itself, appears in the 1920 edition of Murray’s Handbook to India, Ceylon, and Burma. The recipe is later mentioned in 1927’s Barflies and Cocktails, 1930’s Savoy Cocktail Book, and 1930’s Cocktails by “Jimmy” Let of Ciro’s London.

By 1942, the Pegu Club cocktail was well-known around the world, even after the club itself closed. The British left the area in May of that year to avoid the advancing Japanese Infantry. Today, the former club at the intersection of Prome Road and Newlyn Road is home to barracks for the Burmese Army.

Essentially a gin margarita, the Pegu has a zesty, fruity flavor with strong impressions of grapefruit and lime along with touches of nutmeg and orange bitters. For the most traditional taste, use a high-proof gin with a strong juniper flavor. The juniper and orange bitters combine to help create the drink’s unique flavor.  

Ingredients for a Pegu Club

You’ll need six different ingredients to make a traditional Pegu Club

  • 2 ounces of gin
  • 1/2 ounces of lime juice
  • 3/4 ounces of orange curacao
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 grapefruit slice or rind to garnish

How to Make a Pegu Club

Making a Pegu Club typically takes less than five minutes.

1. Combine Ingredients in a Shaker

Add the gin, lime juice, curacao, and both bitters to the shaker. Next, fill it about halfway to three-quarter full with cracked ice.

2. Shake Until Chilled

Shake the shaker for about 25 to 30 seconds. Stop when the exterior of the shaker develops a thin, even coating of condensation. The drink is now chilled and ready to serve.

Pour it through a strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Traditionally, a Pegu Club is garnished with either a peel or slice of grapefruit.

Variations

Instead of orange curacao, you can substitute Grand Marnier. Although both liqueurs have strong orange tones, Grand Marnier has a higher alcohol content, adding a bit of a kick to the drink.

Also, instead of a grapefruit garnish, try a slice of lime. A lime garnish compliments the lime juice already in the drink, adding a hint of tropical flavors.  

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