Did you know that a cocktail helped the British beat Rommel?

Joe Scialom working at Shepheard's Hotel, Cairo (Photo: wearethemighty.com)

British troops stationed in Egypt during World War II were hit hard by a shortage of quality booze, and settled for whatever dubious hooch was available. This, in turn, gave many men bad hangovers which they were desperate to cure.
The man to the rescue was Joe Scialom, an Egyptian Jew with Italian ancestry, who worked as a bartender at the prestigious Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo. Scialom originally studied chemistry before settling on a career of bartending and mixology, and used his chemist's skills to develop the Suffering Bastard cocktail, which was designed to cure the imbiber's hangover. In late 1942, Rommel and the Afrika Korps made their final push in an attempt to break through British lines at El Alamein and push on to Cairo some 150 miles (250 km) away. During the battle, British officers sent a message to Shepheard's asking for an emergency supply of Suffering Bastard. Scialom filled every container he had, and arranged for taxis to transport the stuff straight to the front lines. Official history doesn't say how instrumental the cocktail was in the British victory at El Alamein, but it's safe to assume it raised British morale.
Several versions of the cocktail exist today, as well as an unrelated drink with the same name. If you'd like to try Joe Scialom's original Suffering Bastard, however, here's the recipe:

  • Mix 1 oz of brandy (this is often substituted with bourbon), 1 oz of gin, ½ oz of lime juice, 2 dashes of Angosture bitters and ice.
  • Pour into glass, top with ginger beer (note that ginger beer and ginger ale are different drinks, try to use the former).
  • Enjoy!
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