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  • Writer's pictureBamboo Sam

The Fog Cutter

"Fog Cutter, hell! After two of these you won't even see the stuff." -Trader Vic

The Fog Cutter is a Trader Vic original that was probably his 3rd most popular drink after the Mai Tai and the Scorpion Bowl. Vic actually published the recipe in his 1947 Bartender's Guide which makes it one of the few Tiki drinks with an officially recognized origin and recipe. That being said, it's popularity meant that knock offs appeared at other restaurants prior to 1947 and variations have continued ever since.

As for Trader Vic's original, it's strong enough that in the 1950's he created the Samoan Fog Cutter as a more palatable alternative. The Samoan version has a bit less rum and brandy while being flash blended to further dilute the drinks' potency. Despite my fondness for strong drinks, I actually prefer the Samoan Fog Cutter to the original. However, if I'm really being honest, I prefer the Smuggler's Cove version of the Fog Cutter above all of Trader Vic's versions.

Don the Beachcomber's chains were one of those others serving a knock off of the Fog Cutter back in the 1940's. Don never used lemons (that was a Trader Vic addition to the Tiki palette) and his version used pisco instead of brandy. Pisco is basically a type of brandy made in Chile and Peru. The taste varies per brand but it's more vegetal oriented flavor is a better fit for Tiki drinks in my humble opinion. Plus it's from somewhere a bit more exotic which never hurts...

At any rate, Martin Cate of Smuggler's Cove describes his Fog Cutter as a blend of Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber's. It's an idea that doesn't always work (I tried it with a Zombie once when two pages in my recipe book stuck together... bleh!) but in this case the sum is greater than its parts.

One of the best things about the Fog Cutter is how much variation you can get with such a simple recipe. The variations in the taste of rums has been well documented. However, gin is nothing but variations depending upon the botanicals used for flavoring. Pisco adds more of a vegetal flavor to the drink than brandy and there are still variations within pisco (especially Chilean vs. Peruvian). Varying combinations of all three can yield some very different tasting Fog Cutters. I've settled on my favorite (which is listed at the bottom) but if you've got one you think is best let me know, I'm always on the lookout for a better mix!

Coconaut with Re-entry

Fog Cutter (original)

Source - Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide (1947)

  • 2 ounces fresh lemon juice

  • 1 ounce orange juice

  • 1/2 ounce Orgeat Syrup

  • 2 ounces light Puerto Rican Rum

  • 1 ounce brandy

  • 1/2 ounce gin

  • 1/2 ounce cream sherry (float)

Shake everything with ice cubes and pour unstrained into Fog Cutter mug or tall pilsner glass. Float the sherry on top & garnish with mint sprig.

Fog Cutter (Smuggler's Cove)

Source - Martin Cate Smuggler's Cove

  • 1 1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice

  • 1 1/2 ounces orange juice

  • 1/2 ounce Orgeat Syrup

  • 1 ounce pisco

  • 1/2 ounce gin*

  • 2 ounces blended lightly aged rum*

  • 1/2 ounce dry sherry (float)

Shake everything with ice cubes and pour unstrained into Fog Cutter mug or tall pilsner glass. Float the sherry on top & garnish with mint sprig.

*Bamboo Sam's customizations - the "blended lightly aged rum" is a type as described in Martin Cates' own rum categorization treatise as outlined in his book Smuggler's Cove. It's a bit too complicated to properly cover here but to put it simply there are several popular (although diverse tasting) rums that are appropriate to the "blended lightly aged rum" category suggested for the Fog Cutter. El Dorado 3 year, Mount Gay Eclipse, Cockspur Fine, and my current choice, Appleton Estate Signature Blend are all appropriate choices.

"All are appropriate choices" ...a phrase I do not get to use very often. For the gin I prefer Uncle Val's Botanical.

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