IBA official cocktail
Stinger cocktail served over ice in a rocks glass
Base spirit
ServedStraight up: chilled, without ice
Standard garnishOptional mint leave [sic]
Standard drinkware
Cocktail glass
IBA specified
PreparationPour all ingredients into mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain into chilled martini cocktail glass.
Commonly servedAfter Dinner (Before Dinner)
NotesIt has been suggested that during the 1920s the stinger ceased being an after-dinner cocktail, and instead should be consumed before dinner.[1] However, until recently the IBA listed the stinger as an after-dinner cocktail.
Stinger recipe at International Bartenders Association

A stinger is a duo cocktail made by adding crème de menthe to brandy (although recipes vary). The cocktail's origins can be traced to the United States in the 1890s, and the beverage remained widely popular in America until the 1970s. It was seen as a drink of the upper class, and has had a somewhat wide cultural impact.

History of the cocktail

The stinger originated about 1890.[2] The cocktail may have been derived from The Judge, a cocktail made with brandy, crème de menthe, and simple syrup found in William Schmidt's 1892 cocktail book The Flowing Bowl.[3] It was immediately popular in New York City,[4] and quickly became known as a "society" drink (i.e. only for the upper classes).[1] According to bartender Jere Sullivan in his 1930 volume The Drinks of Yesteryear: A Mixology, the stinger remained a critical component of the bartender's repertoire until Prohibition.[5]

The stinger was not initially seen as a cocktail (i.e. a drink served before dinner), but rather a digestif (after-dinner drink).[1] Writing in the 1910s and 1920s, humorist Don Marquis's "Hermione" (a fictional daffy society do-gooder) refused to refer to the stinger as a cocktail, indicating its status in upper-class society. Over time, however, the stinger came to be consumed like a cocktail.[1]

The stinger was a popular drink during Prohibition in the United States, for crème de menthe could mask the taste of the inferior-quality brandies then available.[6] The stinger began to lose favor with Americans in the late 1970s,[7] and was not a well-known cocktail in the early 21st century.[8]


The stinger is a duo cocktail, in that it uses only two ingredients: a spirit and a liqueur.[9] The classic stinger recipe uses three parts brandy and one part white crème de menthe.[10] However, stinger recipes vary, and some recipes call for equal parts brandy and crème de menthe.[7] The mixture was originally stirred,[1] although modern recipes call for it to be shaken with cracked ice.[10] Early recipes required that a stinger be served straight up, but since the end of Prohibition in the United States[11] it became more common for it to be served over crushed ice.[12]

Cognac, a type of brandy, was identified as the basis for the stinger as early as 1905 in William "Cocktail" Boothby's supplement to his 1900 book, American Bar-Tender.[1] In the 21st century, cognac is the most commonly used brandy cited by recipes for the stinger's base liquor.[4]

Cocktail guides recommend that it be served in a cocktail glass if served straight,[10] or in a rocks glass if served with ice.[13]


The amaretto stinger uses a 3-to-1 ratio of amaretto to white crème de menthe,[14] while an Irish stinger uses equal parts Irish cream liqueur and white crème de menthe.[15]

The Mexican stinger substitutes tequila for brandy.[16]

A "vodka stinger", also known as a white spider,[17] uses vodka instead of brandy.[18]

The white way cocktail, which celebrates Broadway theatre, is a stinger made with gin rather than brandy.[19]

Mixologists Oliver Said and James Mellgren cite a cocktail known as the stinger sour. It is made with a 3-to-1-to-1 ratio of bourbon, peppermint schnapps, and lemon juice.[20] This cocktail is not technically a stinger, since it omits the crème de menthe.[6][21][22]

Cultural impact

The stinger's popularity in New York City was so great that urban legends attributed the cocktail's genesis to famous millionaire Reginald Vanderbilt. It was further claimed that the stinger was Vanderbilt's favorite cocktail, and he spent hours making them for his guests.[1] He would shake them up for himself and friends in his barroom, always with a dash of absinthe added. But Vanderbilt did not call this drink the Brant or the Bartholdi—he called it the Stinger.[23]

The stinger's reputation as a high-society drink led to its appearance in several famous novels. James Bond and Tiffany Case each have a stinger in the 1956 Ian Fleming novel Diamonds are Forever.[24] The spy Alec Leamas drinks stingers in John le Carré's 1963 novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.[25]

The vodka stinger was the drink of choice for Joanne in the musical Company by Stephen Sondheim, with her calling for one in the song "The Ladies Who Lunch".[26]

The drink is also featured in the 2007 Mad Men season one episode "Nixon v. Kennedy", set in 1960. The episode features stingers made with Bacardi rum, as Bacardi was a series sponsor.[27]

Women in Lawrence Block novels sometimes drink stingers. In The Burglar Who Dropped In On Elvis Bernie's date "had two dry Rob Roys first, most of the dinner wine, and a stinger afterward. I had a Bloody Mary for openers, and my after-dinner drink was a cup of coffee. I felt like a cheap date."[28] And in The Burglar in the Closet, "Frankie's drinking, on the other hand, was certainly serious enough to keep the Recovery Room anchored in grim reality. A stinger is always a reasonably serious proposition. A brace of stingers at four o'clock on a weekday afternoon is about as serious as you can get."[29]

The stinger was widely mentioned in American motion pictures. Dudley the angel (played by Cary Grant) orders a round of stingers while lunching with ladies from the church in the 1947 film The Bishop's Wife.[30] The evolving stinger (used with green rather than white crème de menthe) forms a plot point in the 1948 film The Big Clock, when George Stroud (Ray Milland) orders one and a random woman in the bar (Rita Johnson) already knows his name.[31] In the 1950 Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame film In a Lonely Place, Dix Steele's lush friend Charlie orders a stinger at Paul's bar before the first fight scene. In the 1956 Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra film High Society, Dexter-Haven's butler offers Stingers at lunch to those who over-indulged in champagne during the previous evening's party.[32] Cary Grant again orders stingers ("and keep them coming") as he tries to tolerate character Alice Kratzner's (Jayne Mansfield) empty-headed babbling in the 1957 comedy film Kiss Them for Me.[33] Mr. Dobitsch (Ray Walston) instructs his Marilyn Monroe look-alike date (Joyce Jameson) in the 1960 film The Apartment to not spill the glasses of stingers she is holding as they exit their cab and enter C.C. Baxter's (Jack Lemmon) apartment at night for a tryst. In the 1975 Warren Beatty film Shampoo, at the Republican Party dinner scene Goldie Hawn says, "I'll have a stinger", to which Tony Bill replies, "Before dinner?"[34] In the 1983 film Gorky Park, William Hurt orders a stinger, and Brian Dennehy makes a rude remark indicating that the drink is not reputable. Roddy McDowall serves Ruth Gordon a stinger in the film Lord Love a Duck (1966), claiming that it is called a stinger because it "removes the sting" (of life), but admittedly, the drink he offers her looks nothing like a stinger.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Wondrich 2015, p. 217.
  2. ^ McCammon & Wondrich 2016, p. 178.
  3. ^ Regan 2003, p. 24.
  4. ^ a b Chirico 2005, p. 262.
  5. ^ Regan 2003, p. 26.
  6. ^ a b Hellmich 2006, p. 139.
  7. ^ a b DeGroff 2008, p. 228.
  8. ^ Rathbun 2007, p. 43.
  9. ^ Regan 2003, pp. 141–142.
  10. ^ a b c McCammon & Wondrich 2016, pp. 178, 180.
  11. ^ Calabrese 2015, p. 164.
  12. ^ Regan 2003, p. 340.
  13. ^ Kingwell 2007, p. 225.
  14. ^ The Art of Mixology 2015, p. 62.
  15. ^ The Art of Mixology 2015, p. 63.
  16. ^ Shaw 2008, p. 134.
  17. ^ DeGroff 2008, p. 229.
  18. ^ Kingwell 2007, pp. 190–191.
  19. ^ Kingwell 2007, p. 190.
  20. ^ Said & Mellgren 2005, p. 177.
  21. ^ Rombauer, Becker & Becker 2002, p. 120.
  22. ^ Walker 1980, p. 51.
  23. ^ CULLITON (2022). "New York Has Always Been a Stinger Town". Punch.
  24. ^ Holloway 2002, p. 45.
  25. ^ Sandham 2012, p. 39.
  26. ^ Kelly 2008, p. 149.
  27. ^ Gelman & Zheutlin 2011, p. 28.
  28. ^ Lawrence Block. The Burglar Who Dropped in on Elvis.
  29. ^ Lawrence Block. The Burglar in the Closet.
  30. ^ Kingwell 2007, pp. 61–62.
  31. ^ Kingwell 2007, p. 62.
  32. ^ Kingwell 2007, p. 60.
  33. ^ Wohl 2012, p. 45.
  34. ^ Kingwell 2007, p. 61.