Happy Hour History: The Brass Monkey

Drink Features

The history of the Brass Monkey is one of wartime drama and political intrigue. It’s 1942 on the island of Macao off the coast of China. Inside the Brass Monkey Club, an operative named H.E. Rasske holds court as he covertly smuggles Allied men and weapons into China.

Eventually, the Japanese Secret Service connects the operation to the club, but is unable to locate the smuggler. The secret, you see, was on the club’s coasters, which Allied agents used to reveal Rasske’s identity by crossing out various letters on it.

The operation continued, the war was won, but Rasske’s role was lost to history. His only legacy was the club’s eponymous cocktail, which he allegedly had a hand in creating.

Cool story, right? Unfortunately, it’s total bunk — the product of a 1971 ad campaign by the Heublein Company, a pre-mixed cocktail manufacturer popular in the 1970s and 80s. In reality, ad executives named the cocktail and cooked up the whole Rasske story from scratch.


The Heublein Brass Monkey is a sweet, tropical combo of rum, vodka, and orange juice. However, two other wildly different variations do exist that have little to do with the original aside from its golden brassy hue. One, which calls for gin, triple sec, tequila, sour mix, orange juice, and grapefruit juice, is an example of everything that was wrong with cocktail culture in the 1970s. The other, of course, is the malt liquor and orange juice version made famous by the Beastie Boys in the 1980s.


Brass Monkey Recipe

1 oz. dark rum
1 oz. vodka
1/4 oz. Galliano*
Orange juice

Directions: Add rum and vodka to an ice-filled highball glass. Top with orange juice, and stir. Garnish with an orange slide and/or cherry.

*This is strictly optional. You can float the Galliano on top by pouring it over the back of a teaspoon.

Enjoy while listening to this.

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