Classic Cocktail Recipe: Trilby

The Trilby cocktail seems to be a rather enigmatic figure. Not that its history is obscure: according to Jamie Boudreau, the drink (along with a hat) was named for a 1984 play and novel by George du Maurier. Cocktail recipes by this name appear in bar tending books published as early as 1900.

But this is where the difficulty comes. As it turns out, there are as many different recipes as there are publications of a drink called “Trilby” from 1900 to 1935 (Mr. Boudreau lists eight)! However, it seems that there is one recipe, or a variation thereof, which is generally accepted by craft mixologists as the Trilby and it comes from Old Mr. Boston’s Official Bartenders Guide, circa 1935:

  • 2/3 Old Mr. Boston whiskey
  • 1/3 Italian vermouth
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

We will use the same variation on this recipe that Jamie recommends which comes from cocktail historian Jared Brown.

The ingredients: bourbon, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters. Notice another distinctive of the Trilby – while the Manhattan is classically made with rye whiskey, this Trilby recipe calls specifically for bourbon.

Start with one and three-quarters ounces of bourbon.

Add three-quarters of an ounce of sweet vermouth.

The last ingredient is two dashes of orange bitters.

Stir well with ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.


Garnish with an orange twist. Cheers!




  • 1 3/4 oz. Bourbon
  • 3/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 Dashes Orange Bitters

Stir well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Goes Well With:

  • A Trilby Hat obviously. Lacking that, any stylish hat will do.
  • An Evening of Dancing
  • Tuxes and Evening Gowns. No kidding, this is a genuine dressed to the nines with tails drink.


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