10 February 2012

Benito vs. the Cocktail: The Admiral Benbow

The Admiral Benbow Inn. It's a place where Jim Hawkins stayed in Treasure Island, and it shares a name with this cocktail I'll get to in a moment. But for anyone from Memphis, there's a far different association.

There are good hotels, affordable but clean motels, and places that are a little sketchy but sometimes the only option when there's a big convention in town or you just need a few hours of shuteye before getting back on I-40 heading toward one of the coasts. There are the places that show up on the news for various criminal activity, and then there's the Admiral Benbow. By the 1980s it was a haven for all sorts of weird, sad crime. If you had a friend who called in tears and needed a ride home at two in the morning, it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to find him at the Admiral Benbow, missing his car, wallet, and most of his pride.

It was the site of the 1986 Memphis Trousers Affair, in which former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was found in the lobby wearing nothing but a towel, and confused as to where his pants were.

This is an older and somewhat obscure cocktail, but it contains classic ingredients and proportions. You're supposed to use Plymouth Gin, but in tribute to the Inn I went a little downmarket with a regular domestic gin.

The Admiral Benbow Cocktail
2 oz. Plymouth Gin
½ oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1 oz. Dry White Vermouth
Garnish with Citrus Peel and Maraschino Cherry

Combine everything but the garnish in a cocktail mixer with ice. I tried one shaken and one stirred, and found that I preferred the cloudy appearance of the shaken version. Reminded me a bit of some bad motels I've stayed in across the country where you get a glass of water from the tap and it has to settle for a few minutes before it's no longer cloudy.

The cocktail has a nice balance of elements, though the lime juice covers up most of the vermouth. Sort of a very tart martini, and while it won't be in the main rotation, I think I'll come back to it every once in a while. The stories alone are worth it.


fredric koeppel said...

that Admiral Benbow was a nice, funky garish part of the urban landscape in Memphis, now one more parking lot.

the crowning touch on the Malcolm Fraser story is that he wasn;t even staying at the Benbow; he was actually staying at the Peabody, but got lured to the Benbow in an assignation that went awry.

Benito said...


Many strange stories in Memphis... As I mentioned on Facebook when I originally talked about the cocktail, no movie set here has ever been as bizarre as some of the real things that happen.

I have no personal memory of the Fraser story, but when I read about it years later I immediately thought his presence here in 1986 was in some way connected to the 1985 Memphis in May tribute to Australia. 1986 was Japan, and I can remember doing all sorts of neat things those two years in connection with the festival. It was something that we looked forward to for months.

This year, I had to go to the website to even see which country we're celebrating this year. The Philippines is a good choice, and I'm hoping for some interesting food opportunities.


fredric koeppel said...

The Commercial Appeal used to send a reporter and a photog to the honored country for the whole month of March. Then it was shortened to three weeks, then two weeks, then the trip was eliminated. Except for the BBQ festival, Sunset Symphony and the Beale Street music fest, Memphis in May is of little consequence to the newspaper or even the city, it seems.
I was lucky enough to be sent to China in 1987 and France in 1990.