Leap Year Cocktail, History, Traditions and Superstitions!

I am always interested in food customs surrounding holidays of all kinds.  Leap Year is not technically a holiday but frankly anything that only happens every four years must have some honorary ‘cousin of a holiday’ status at a minimum.
The origins of Leap Year date back to ancient Egypt when it was discovered the solar and man made calendars did not line up.  The Romans instituted February 29 as a leap day, though that was fine tuned in the 16th century with the Gregorian calendar to be more formulaic establishing it every 4 years.
My first point of interest is always what the food customs are of a holiday.  In all my research I found there are definitely some social customs but really no coordinated food for Leap Year.  In the British Isles it is like a matrimonial Sadie Hawkins day where woman are ‘allowed’ to ask men to marry them.  In Scotland Queen Margaret instituted a fine for any man declining such a proposal by a woman of a kiss, pair of gloves or a silk dress (I also read there may have been a large ‘punishment’).  I read something bleak about how it was a coveted day for women concerned they’d be ‘left on the shelf’; ug.  Supposedly in Greece it is seen to be bad luck to have a wedding in a Leap Year and in Scotland bad luck for a child to be born on February 29.
The reason it is called Leap Year has to do historically with English law not recognizing it as a legal day for business and therefore it is ‘leapt over’ with business transactions to occur on February 28 or March 1.
Despite not uncovering any food customs, I did find a Leap Year cocktail.  It originates back to Harry Craddock who was the bartender at the famous Savoy Hotel in London and he is said to have developed this cocktail for a Leap Year celebration in 1928.
LEAP YEAR cocktail
One should approach this cocktail slowly like a large, stealthy wild cat stalking the only prey it’s seen for weeks.  Pounce too quickly and you’ll be sorry.  Think of this as a brightly flavored martini, not to be taken lightly; lest you be knocked out until the Leap Year!  It’s very tasty….and forte!
Yield:  1 cocktail
·         2 ounces gin*
·         ½ ounce Grand Marnier
·         ½ ounce Sweet Vermouth
·         ¼ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
·         Garnish:  Lemon spiral (click here for instructions)
*I suppose to be in fashion with this cocktail’s origins using a British gin brand would be fitting but I’m a locavore so I used my gin of choice Rob’s Mountain Gin (Growing Gardens limited edition batch).
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake, and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

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  1. says

    This cocktail looks great! I like your description of how to carefully approach it…. hehehehe :)))

    I host a “Happy Hour Friday” linkup on my blog on Fridays. Would love to have you join.

    Happy Leap Day!


  2. says

    Whoo … this sounds like it packs a pretty powerful punch! The haze will probably last me til the next leap year 🙂
    I don't see it as bad luck to be born on this day … you'll always be much younger than your peers and for me, it's a good thing 🙂
    Happy Leap Day to you!

    • says

      Ping I love how you think. A bit like human years to dog years. I think from now on if I'm asked my age I'll counter with 'in human or leap years?'. The drink it very flavorful….and serious business if you know what I mean. Happy Leap Day to you!

  3. says

    If only I needed a kiss, a pair of gloves or a silk dress…

    You know, I've never been a huge fan of gin. In fact, I've hated it. But I recently had a stellar cocktail with gin that actually blew my mind, so it may be time to give it another go? I can imagine that the citrus in this would balance out the juniper a tad, right?

    • says

      Well not all gins are created equal. As with anything you need to have a gin with flavor you like. I do like gin but l-o-v-e the local gin by Rob's Mountain Gin. The special edition batch I used was created as a fundraiser for our local community garden project. All the ingedients are from within 15 miles. I also had the opportunity to go pick juniper berries for it too! The citrus does brighten this up, you are right (it still packs a whollop!)

  4. says

    I love learning about different origins too surrounding holidays – it is always so interesting to learn what other cultures believe and customs they follow. Thank god London decided to celebrate with this cocktail though because it sounds delicious!

    • says

      Things must have been pretty winging in 1928 too for this cocktail to have been dreamed up! I also read Harry Craddock said this cocktail was probably responsible for more proposals than any other!

  5. says

    I remember being in elementary school and all the high school kids dressing up like hillbillies on Sadie Hawkins Day. (I think there was a dance, too.) By the time I got to HS, they had discontinued this. I had no idea the tradition dated back to England. Nice cocktail! (Aren't ya' glad we are beyond all this?)

    • says

      I'm sorry if I mislead you; Sadie Hawkins is an American tradition. My reference to the practice of allowing women to propose to men on February 29 as 'Sadie Hawkins-esque' was giving a nod to the girls-ask-boys aspect. I too remember Sadie Hawkins dances. I think now life is not so 'only boys do the asking'.

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