The Story Behind The Fog Cutter
With four different types of booze occupying the same glass (or tiki mug), the Fog Cutter has earned a reputation as the Long Island Iced Tea of tiki drinks. As with practically any cocktail in this genre, rum is a given, but the Fog Cutter also takes Cognac, London Dry gin, and sherry along for the ride, only to be enhanced by a blend of fruit juices and sweetened syrups.
“Fog Cutter” is an old American term from the 1840s for an “eye-opener” or morning drink, as it’s said to help one cut through the morning fog. In all honesty, this drink does quite the opposite.
”Fog Cutter, hell. After two of these you won’t even see the stuff,” Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron writes in his 1947 book “Bartender’s Guide.” Bergeron invented the cocktail in the early 1940’s and first published it in his 1946 book entitled “Book of Food and Drink.” Just as Donn Beach famously enforced a two-drink limit on the Zombie at his Don the Beachcomber bar, Bergeron did the same for the Fog Cutter at Trader Vic’s.
To further err on the side of caution, in the late ‘40s, Bergeron debuted a less-volatile riff on the original recipe entitled the Samoan Fog Cutter. While most of the spec remains consistent in the new formula, Bergeron dialed down the rum and brandy, and opted for electric blending with ice for dilution. By the ‘50s, the Fog Cutter was appearing on bar menus nationwide, with even non-tiki bars adopting the recipe and introducing tweaks. Seattle’s Norselander Seafood Restaurant served the Viking Fog Cutter, which replaced sherry with aquavit.
While Bergeron’s original Fog Cutter recipe lays the groundwork, there’s still no unanimous “correct” spec for this cocktail. Some recipes call for pisco instead of Cognac, pineapple juice over orange, or one style of sherry over another.
“It’s one of those classic tiki drinks that you have to play with to get it right because there’s either an outrageous amount of juice, an outrageous amount of alcohol, or simply not enough sugar to balance the previous two,” says bartender and noted tiki enthusiast Brian Miller. “The Fog Cutter seems to check all three boxes.”
To help land on a solid recipe, we consulted with Miller and have added cane syrup and Angostura bitters to mellow out the drink’s four ounces of alcohol. The Trader Vic recipe also calls for cream sherry, but we opted for the slightly drier Pedro Ximénez style. When it comes to glassware, a tall Collins glass will do just fine, but we recommend a tiki mug if possible. After all, the Fog Cutter was the first tiki drink to have a custom-made mug created specifically for it — a tradition long-held by the style’s culture from then on.