Suffering Bastard


Published: 02/20/24

suffering bastard
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The Suffering Bastard is a blend of cognac, gin, fresh lime juice, and Angostura bitters, topped with ginger beer, and is more than just a cocktail, it’s a testament to creativity under duress, a symbol of resilience, and a slice of history preserved through the legacy of its creator, Joe Scialom.

Joe Scialom, the bartender behind this iconic drink, served at Cairo’s Shepherd’s Hotel, a venue that played a significant role during the war years. In 1942, amidst the turmoil and the hardships of World War II, Scialom sought to craft a remedy for the Allied troops suffering from hangovers, exacerbated by the poor quality of liquor available in the region. His creation was not merely an attempt to alleviate physical discomfort but also to offer a morale booster to the soldiers stationed far from home.

The name itself, “Suffering Bastard”, reflects the dual nature of the drink – a cure for those enduring the aftermath of poor-quality spirits and a nod to the hardships faced by the soldiers. Initially intended as a medicinal concoction, the drink transcended its purpose, becoming a symbol of camaraderie and relief for those on the front lines.

The backdrop of the Suffering Bastard’s creation is as dramatic as its name suggests. Shepherd’s Hotel, where Scialom was employed, was more than just a luxury hotel, it was a center of social and military activity during the war. The hotel’s role in the conflict was highlighted by an anecdote involving German General Erwin Rommel, who, during a period when the Axis powers were advancing, purportedly stated his intention to celebrate victory by drinking champagne in the hotel’s master suite. However, the tide of war turned in favor of the Allies, and it was the Suffering Bastard, rather than champagne, that became associated with the celebration of resilience and victory.

The cocktail was so popular among the troops, to the extent that gallons were reportedly requested on the front lines, which underscores its significance not just as a beverage but as a morale booster, a brief respite amid conflict.

The original recipe, as given by Scialom’s daughter, called for brandy. However, bourbon frequently substituted brandy, showcasing the cocktail’s versatility and the improvisational skills of those who made it under varied circumstances.

Joe Scialom’s legacy, therefore, is not merely that of a skilled bartender but of a figure who contributed to the wartime effort in a unique and enduring way. His creation did not just alleviate the physical ailments of the soldiers but also offered a psychological salve during a time of immense stress and uncertainty.

It is important to note that for a short time, the drink had an alternative name – “Suffering Bar Steward,” which emerged as a response to those who found the original name offensive, illustrating the era’s social sensibilities and the cocktail’s ability to adapt to its audience.

In contemporary times, the Suffering Bastard remains a popular choice among cocktail aficionados, a reminder of the enduring power of a well-crafted drink to convey stories, emotions, and history. Its continued popularity serves as a bridge between past and present, inviting each sip to be an acknowledgment of the resilience and creativity that defined a crucial moment in history.

Suffering Bastard Recipe

  1. 30 ml cognac or brandy

  2. 30 ml gin

  3. 15 ml fresh lime juice

  4. 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  5. Ginger beer, to top

  6. Ice

  7. Garnish: mint sprig

suffering bastard cocktail

How to Make a Suffering Bastard

  1. Add the cognac, gin, fresh lime juice, and Angostura bitters into a cocktail shaker.

  2. Add ice and shake for 10-15 seconds, until chilled.

  3. Strain into a Collins glass over ice.

  4. Top up with ginger beer.

  5. Garnish with a mint sprig.

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