In Between Sheets

19 Feb. 2018
We keep digging in the cocktail corpus to find more examples of non Cuban bartenders mixing their own tradition with superior Cuban rum.

There’s an unwritten cocktail law that says “thou shalt not mix two spirits in one recipe”, and who are we to disagree? We think rum is enough. Cuban rum, of course. It’s true that some tiki drinks turned their back on said law and that recent creativity has somewhat diminished its validity. Will that be enough for us to cross the Rubicon and say “be damned, commandment”? Well, actually, yes, if only for this article.
We told you a couple of weeks ago about the Doctor Cocktail, a fusion of Cuban and European influences. Since we’re already focused on this year’s Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix, which is all about fusion, well, we keep digging in the cocktail corpus to find more examples of non Cuban bartenders mixing their own tradition with superior Cuban rum. And that’s how we were reminded of the Between the Sheets.
As its name implies, it belongs to that small cocktail family that’s meant to help you convince your date to go one step further. We have never noted the effect, but maybe it’s just us. The Between the Sheets was given as an example of drink not to make by Patrick Gavin Duffy, in one of the first post-prohibition books to be published in the United States. Duffy was another member of the anti multi spirits league, because it had been a cheap recourse in bad speakeasies, and, in most cases, he was right.
But the Between the Sheets does not deserve such scorn: it’s a good drink, and it was not invented by a sorry excuse of a bartender in an over expensive dive. While we don’t know who came up with the recipe, everything points towards a European origin, not least its first appearance in print in the Savoy book. Some say it was invented at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, but we haven’t seen any conclusive evidence.
Now that we’ve set the stage, the question is what’s in a Between the Sheet? Nothing could be simpler: it’s actually a Cuban rum and cognac based Sidecar (the Savoy’s recipe only has “a dash of lemon juice” but that would be nigh-on undrinkable). Instead of 60 ml of cognac, you go for 30 ml of rum and 30 ml of cognac. The original was apparently made with light rum, but we think aged rum such as Havana Club Añejo 7 años stands up better to the cognac. And since we feel there’s some affinity between cognac and Havana Club Selección de Maestros, it might be worth a shot too.
Interestingly, a “Between-Sheets” made an appearance on Floridita’s menu in 1933, but it pretty much looked like a Brandy Alexander (cognac, crème de cacao, cream, sugar and Angostura Bitters).
The Between the Sheets might not be the most creative cocktail around, but it’s yet another proof that as early as the 1920’s, Cuban rum was winning the hearts and the minds of European bartenders. They were learning to tame this relatively new ingredient and were playing with it. They already understood that there was more to Cuban rum than just Cuban drinks.

Between the Sheets

30 ml Havana Club Añejo
7 años 30 ml cognac
30 ml triple sec
15 ml fresh lemon juice

Shake over ice, strain in a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist or a lemon wheel.

François Monti