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Drink of the Week: Peche’s Lita Grey

Arianna Auber
aauber@statesman.com

With Peche’s Lita Grey, one historical figure, now largely forgotten, returns to the spotlight.

Bartender Larry Miller had stumbled across a couple of old Prohibition-era cocktail books that featured the Charlie Chaplin drink as a concoction with sloe gin, apricot liqueur and lemon juice. He decided to incorporate those three ingredients in a cocktail honoring one of Chaplin’s four wives, Lita Grey, who was also said to be inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov’s novel “Lolita.”

In this cocktail and others, sloe gin is similarly making a bit of a reappearance. A crimson-colored cordial, it’s gin infused with sugar, spices and the astringent fruit of the blackthorn shrub, known mainly as sloe berries. Although it had been popular in Britain for many years, the liqueur’s good name was tarnished with the arrival of overly sweet versions in the 20th century. Companies like the Bitter Truth and Plymouth are working to change that with their sloe gin using real gin and real fruits. Plymouth, the sloe gin in the Lita Grey, is going to bring to mind (and nose) the richness of dried fruit and nutmeg, and it adds a much-needed layer of tartness to the gin cocktail.

So why did Miller name his creation after Lita Grey, rather than pay homage again to Charlie Chaplin?

“She deserves to live on in a cocktail,” he said.

Lita Grey

0.75 oz. gin

0.75 oz. sloe gin

0.75 apricot liqueur

0.75 oz. lemon juice

2 oz. champagne

Shake gin, sloe gin, apricot liqueur and lemon juice with ice. Strain into a martini glass. Top with champagne.

— Created by Larry Miller of Peche