How to make a Pegu Club
Posted by Spirits Kiosk on 20 Mar 2023
Discover the fascinating history behind the Pegu Club cocktail, a classic drink that originated in colonial Burma. You’ll learn about the drink's creation and popularity at the once exclusive Pegu Club, and how the cocktail has stood the test of time as a beloved classic.
Never had one? The Pegu Club is a refreshing, citrusy drink with a strong gin backbone. The orange liqueur and lime juice give the cocktail a sweet and sour balance, while the bitters add a subtle complexity and depth.
TLDR – scroll all the way down for a simple recipe that you can easily make at home tonight!
Let’s start with what it is and where the Pegu Club came from.
The Pegu Club is a classic cocktail that has its roots in the colonial era of Burma. It was first mentioned in Harry MacElhone's book "Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails" in 1927, where he gives credit to a man named "Colonel" who was the bartender at the Pegu Club.
Legend has it that the Colonel created in the early 1900s for British officers stationed in Burma who were looking for a refreshing drink to cool off in the hot and humid climate.
It soon became the signature drink of the establishment the bar was in (The Pegu Club) which was British social club located in Rangoon (now Yangon), Burma. For context - the club itself was named after the nearby Pegu River, which was an important transportation route during colonial times. While google based Chat GPT automated posts will have you believe that it quickly became a popular destination for British expats and military personnel stationed in Burma, known for its elegant surroundings, delicious food, and excellent cocktails – that’s not quite true.
It was THE ONLY place they could go at the time and while the opulence was surely real, so was the inequality and all the other negatives of colonialisation that made it possible... so while the cocktail is right to be heralded as a gem of a drink, the place it’s named after has far more complex history to grapple with. The club was eventually closed in the 1950s, and the building was later converted into a government office.
It wasn’t a eureka cocktail moment either, more of an evolution from a "Gin Sling" which is made with gin, lime juice, and soda water. Overtime, a more sophisticated version which included orange liqueur and bitters started to rise in popularity and eventually the recipe we know today became established.
PEGU CLUB RECIPE
To make a Pegu Club cocktail, you'll need:
20ml Orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or triple sec)
20ml lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters
Lime wheel, for garnish
- In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, orange liqueur, lime juice, and bitters.
- Fill the shaker with ice and shake well for about 15 seconds.
- Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a lime wheel.
Use a good quality gin as it's the main ingredient in the cocktail and the botanical nuances each have will play a big part in the overall drink.
Make sure to use fresh lime juice, not the concentrates.
Don't skip the bitters, they add an essential depth of flavour to the cocktail and are not an optional extra here.
Chill your cocktail glass beforehand. It’s a simple way to elevate your drink as it’ll stay colder for longer and be all the better for it.
Which Gin should I use to make a Pegu Club?
Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin: Hapusa is an earthy gin with clear and generous pine notes from the juniper. The turmeric, ginger and cardamom also add some significant botanical piquancy to the finish and that combo - the spice meets earthy undertones and juniper - act as a perfect contrast to the citrus forward nature of the cocktail.
135 Gin: Yuzu gives 135 gin a clear citrus hit, boosted by grapefruit and juicy mandarin. Shiso leaf adds a herbal tang around the juniper, while sansho pepper brings its fragrant and numbing spice to the finish. Some of the nuances can get a little lost, but the spice drives through to keep it balanced and what you loose in the subtle transitions you gain by how the liqueur accentuates the citrus components of the gin.
Using 135 Gin in a Pegu Club is also a great invitation to tinker! With a couple of really easy twists, you can create a completely different yet equally delicious profile. For example, swap Cointreau for Kumquat Liqueur and the blood orange and mandarin notes accentuate the gin's more unique botanicals. You can also swap the lime for another citrus like yuzu or pomelo and take it one step further (all while sticking to the same recipe) if you want.
And there you have it - the Pegu Club cocktail is a classic drink with an interesting history that is still enjoyed by many today.
The simple yet delicious combination of gin, orange liqueur, lime juice and bitters make it a great cocktail for any occasion. Give it a try and see why the recipe has stood the test of time as a beloved classic cocktail.