Waugh’s Pick-Me-Up Cocktail

A New Zealand-based news website (Stuff.co.nz) has included a Waugh-sourced cocktail  in an article (“Three ways with…festive fizz“) recommending drinks for the holiday. This is called a “Firestarter,” and Waugh is cited as having introduced it in his writings. Waugh actually suggested it as a cure for a hangover, recommended to him by his friend Alistair Graham, rather than an aperitif as it it designated in the article. See earlier post. The drink is mentioned in Waugh’s 1930 travel book Labels  (retitled A Bachelor Abroad in the U.S.):

…I commend [this drink] to anyone in need of a wholesome and easily accessible pick-me-up. [Alistair] took a large tablet of beet sugar (an equivalent quantity of ordinary lump sugar does equally well) and soaked it in Angostura Bitters and then rolled it in Cayenne pepper. This he put unto [sic] a large glass which he filled with champagne. The sugar and Angostura enrich the wine and take away the slight acidity which renders even the best champagne slightly repugnant in the early morning. Each bubble as it rises to the surface carries with it a red grain of pepper, so that as one drinks one’s appetite is at once stimulated and gratified, heat and cold, fire and liquid, contending on one’s palate and alternating in the mastery of one’s sensations.

Waugh does not refer to the drink as a “Firestarter” so that appellation may derive from a different source. The recipe (for 6 drinks) provided in the article is as follows:

6 sugar cubes
3 teaspoons Angostura Bitters
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 x 750ml bottle sparkling wine (Lindauer Brut is perfect)

Put the sugar cubes in a small bowl and pour the bitters over them. Sprinkle over the cayenne pepper, turning the sugar cubes to ensure they are coated on all sides. To serve, put a sugar cube in a champagne flute, then top with the sparkling wine (go slowly, it will fizz like mad).

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