The Story of the Brandy Sour

It is a staple of the Cypriot bar menu—the brandy sour.

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It is a staple of the Cypriot bar menu—the brandy sour. The drink some call the national cocktail has its origins in Platres, the mountain resort made popular by the British in the nineteenth-century under colonial rule. Enter King Farouk of Egypt. Known for his opulent taste and lavish lifestyle, he made Platres a frequent stop in his travels away from the scorching Egyptian heat. King Farouk enjoyed Western cocktails, but as a Muslim monarch he did not want to be seen drinking alcohol in public. His bartender in Platres devised a clever ploy—a cocktail that looks like an iced tea! The base of the drink is Cyprus brandy, a double distillation of wine from the Cypriot grape variety xynisteri aged in oak barrels. To that is added squash from Cyprus lemons, which have a yellow-green rind and a bitter taste (British author Lawrence Durrell named his memoir Bitter Lemons of Cyprus in their honour). Next come two drops of aromatic bitters; the bitters add complexity and intensity to the taste and temper the acidity of the citrus and the harshness of the alcohol. The long drink is finished with soda water and served with ice (like an iced tea, naturally). Now the brandy sour is a beloved refreshment on a summer evening—and one cocktail enthusiasts are proud to order. Ready to try it? The Byz Bar offers this and other classic cocktails on a nightly basis.