De Rigueur or Brown Derby


Known as the De Rigueur, this cocktail also goes by the name Brown Derby, named after the famous Brown Derby restaurant chain in Los Angeles.

As a cocktail, De Rigueur isn’t necessarily something is is truly required, but it is an excellent cocktail befitting its’ name, with a sort of strong structure of the bourbon backed by some depth from the tart and slightly sweet grapefruit juice and the sweet flavor honey that contributes to the cocktail by giving it more gravity and texture. Interestingly enough, the other name for this drink is actually the Brown Derby cocktail, which is attributed to the Brown Derby restaurant chain in Los angeles and its’ environs: however, the question arises of which was first, the De Rigueur, which seemingly is the term used by the Europeans when talkinga bout this drink, or the Brown Derby version.  Personally, I find that the cocktail most likely is not a Brown Derby original, seeing as how other cocktails that were signature drinks at the restaurant chain, including the Honeymoon, were invented by others such as Hugo Ensslin (Haigh 164).  However, James Hensley states that this cocktail is not even from the Brown Derby, but rather from the Vendome, another Los Angeles landmark.

The earliest mention I can find of this cocktail is in Henry Craddocks book, The Savoy Cocktail Book (58).  Listed here as the De Rigueur, the drink is two-one-one, or a simple ratio between all three ingredients producing a fairly well balanced drink, though one which is difficult to work with on account of the thick and heavy gravity of honey.  Individuals like Marcos Tello, in a Los Angeles interview with bartenders’ changes up the recipe to make it a bit more sour than sweet by modifying the proportions to four-two-one, and technically what would amount to one-half the honey since the honey is replaced with honey syrup, or a mixture of honey and water in equal proportions to make it more manageable, something common with a lot of tiki drinks.

The version of the drink which is presented by James Hensley is one that includes the very same ingredients, and was exceedingly popular in the 1930s as well, just like the Brown Derby.  The question however is which came first?  I am unable to find evidence which suggests what comes first, but looking at the dates, the De Rigueur had to be around in the 1920s in order to be published in the Savoy, and both of those restaurants in Los Angeles did not come into their popular histories until the 1930s: therefore, it seems quite likely, of course speculative, that the drink originates as the De Rigueur and might have made its’ way through name changes or perhaps even genuine innovation at either of these two restaurants.  It doesn’t seem likely that the drink however was originating from the Vendome, at least in the name Brown Derby.

Overall a fairly delightful drink, the honey can be pushed back if a less sweet drink is desired overall, or the Bourbon can be replaced with a spicier rye.  In either case, they are modifications to an already good rink, and are modifications that should be done based upon the preferences of the imbiber.  I personally find that the use of a white grapefruit juice works well in this drink, since it gives it a different flavor than the readily used pink stuff which tends to be slightly sweeter.

De Rigueur or Brown Derby:

1 1/2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce grapefruit juice
3/4 ounce honey

Combine the ingredients in a mixing tin with cracked ice.  Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


Craddock, Henry.  1999.  The Savoy Cocktail Book.  Originally published 1930.  London: Pavilion Books.

Haigh, Ted.  2009.  Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond.  Beverly, Massachusetts: Quarry Books.

Hensley, James.  2010.  “The Brown Derby Cocktail.”  The Spirit Monkey.  Originally published June 19, 2010.  Accessed February 5, 2011.