The Story Behind The Suffering Bastard Riff

The original version of this tiki-influenced Highball was invented in 1942 by Joe Scialom at the Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. It was one of the rum-less cocktails that Trader Vic helped popularize, and it is still enjoyed by many cocktail enthusiasts today, due to its straightforward template of spirits, carbonation, and some bitters for depth of flavor.

To make the classic version of this cocktail, bartenders could use either bourbon, or brandy split with gin. However, bourbon eventually won out as the preferred spirit for this cocktail due to its exceptional ability to pair with ginger. “It’s a delicious and refreshing sipper, especially in the heat,” says Michael Neff, beverage director at The Cottonmouth Club in Houston. “It was originally created as a ‘morning-after’ tonic, as the name implies, but the flavors marry perfectly to create a delicious, easy-drinking Highball.”

Neff riffs on the classic template with the use of his original cardamom-vanilla Angostura bitters, which complement each of the base spirits featured in the recipe. These bitters also add aromatic nuance that brightens the cocktail significantly. It’s as easy to drink as it is to make.


  • 1 ounce Four Roses Bourbon
  • 1 ounce Brooklyn Gin
  • 3 ounce Q Mixers ginger ale
  • 3-4 dashes cardamom vanilla Angostura bitters (recipe follows)


  1. Add ice to a Highball glass and build ingredients over ice, then give a light stir to chill and add more ice if needed.
  2. Top with the Q ginger ale, then garnish with the dashes of cardamom- vanilla Angostura bitters and a lemon wheel.

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Updated: 2020-09-03

Cardamom-Vanilla Angostura Bitters Ingredients

  • 1 bottle Angostura bitters (16 ounces)
  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 15 cardamom pods

Cardamom-Vanilla Angostura Bitters Directions

  1. Slice vanilla pods lengthwise to expose the seeds, then chop into half-inch pieces.
  2. Gently crush cardamom pods with a muddler to expose their seeds as well.
  3. Empty the bitters into a clean container, add crushed and sliced ingredients, then let steep for at least 24 and up to 36 hours. Strain and bottle to serve.
The Suffering Bastard Riff Recipe

Note: You can also purchase The Cottonmouth Club’s “World’s Best Old Fashioned” tincture, which is the cardamom-vanilla bitters pre-sweetened to create an Old Fashioned cocktail with the addition of two ounces of spirit — it also works well in slightly sweeter version of the Suffering Bastard.