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How the Suffering Bastard Cocktail Got Its Name

Suffering Bastard

The Suffering Bastard is a name that can be used to refer to two different mixed drinks, one being more of an exotic drink associated with Tiki bars in the 1960s and the other being more of a standard cocktail associated with World War II in 1952. As with many cocktails, there are various historical origins and recipe variations used to describe the Suffering Bastard cocktail. The earliest recipe version of this mixed drink is by Joe Scialom, a bartender, in 1942, where he made the cocktail from gin and brandy. The other version is from Victor J. Bergeron, also known as Trader Vic. His version of this drink is the use of "special ingredients" and later garnished with cucumber. The most common recipe of the Suffering Bastard cocktail is the use of Brandy, Gin, Angostura cocktail bitters, lime juice, and ginger beer to balance the rich taste. Here, we will take a closer look at how the Suffering Bastard cocktail got its name.


According to Seriousseats, the Suffering Bastard cocktail was invented by the bartender Joe Scialom at the Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo back in 1942. Scialom was a trained Chemist who found making new drinks more enjoyable and began his career as a bartender. He is also an Egyptian Jew with an Italian background. He was born and raised in Egypt; he began developing his theoretical chemistry skills for mixology, which later made him work as a barman. During World War II, the Shepheard Hotel was considered the most favored watering joint for the press corps and British officers. At that time, the British officers were fighting against Erwin Rommel and the German troops and tried to push their territory back to Tunisia. The liquor supply was inadequate during the war, so the British soldiers had to wake up to terrible hangovers due to the excessive consumption of low-quality spirits. One day while working in the hotel, Scialom overheard the British soldiers complaining about their horrible hangover problems, and he was inspired to create a cure for their hangovers.

He gathered various ingredients that could be bought locally and created the Suffering Bastard. The drink contained aromatic bitters, lime juice, and ginger beer's magical stomach-settling abilities. Some recipe versions include bourbon or brandy, but over time the bourbon recipe version was opted for as it blended perfectly with the other ingredients. Joe's mixed drink became very popular among its intended audience- the British soldiers who requested the hotel to provide them with more supplies of the drink. As a result, Scialom earned the respect and attention of the British troops. Joe was also an Egyptian-Jew who spoke several languages and was great at recalling faces, names, and the drinks each of them preferred, making him the talk of the town. By the end of the war, several gallons of the Suffering Bastard had already been delivered to the British front lines.

The now-famous bartender Joe Scialom remained working at the Shepheard's Hotel as a barman until it was later destroyed in 1952 during a riot. While most of the country's citizens fled away to other countries during these difficult times, Joe decided to remain in Cairo, Egypt. He was later imprisoned on suspicions of alleged espionage and was eventually banished from Egypt by its president- Nasser, after the Suez Canal disaster. After learning of Scialom's troubles, Conrad Hilton decided to hire him and moved him to Cuba to open a bar in Havana. Joe continued working for Castro by opening numerous bars all over the globe. Ultimately, the British soldiers succeeded against the German troops and forcefully pushed them back to Egypt's neighboring country – Tunisia.

Today, the common recipe for the Suffering Bastard Cocktail calls for gin and bourbon, though various reports claim the original version used brandy instead of bourbon. Moreover, various modifications have been made to this mixed drink, including the substitution of ginger beer with ginger ale, and still maintain the drink's effervescent, thirst-quenching quality, but not the rich, spicy taste. In the late 1960s, the Suffering Bastard cocktail began to be associated with the Tiki culture. This led to rums as the base spirits, accented by curacao and orgeat liqueur, which provides a completely different drink taste. Regardless of the numerous modifications added to this cocktail, it has continued to be considered the most preferred drink to get rid of terrible hangovers.

Variations of the Suffering Bastard cocktail

According to Drinkmagazine, the traditional recipe for the Suffering Bastard cocktail includes ingredients such as; lime juice, ginger beer, brandy, Angostura bitters, and gin. Later on, bourbon became a more favorable option than the original recipe's brandy. The founder of the drink Scialom also occasionally substituted bourbon for brandy and decided to name this drink the Dying Bastard. Over the years, a number of interesting modifications have been tried on the original Bastard Cocktail recipe. For instance, if you aim for a much stronger ginger kick in your drink, you can add more ginger beer. Other people prefer using ginger ale instead for their Suffering Bastard cocktail. Still, the resulting cocktail is usually sweeter and lacks the rich, spicy flavor the drink is best known for. Some people prefer their cocktail with bourbon as the base spirit, along with a shot of gin. The drink's rich taste is balanced with the natural healing powers of Angostura bitters and lime juice and further leavened with a subtle dose of ginger ale. If you plan to increase the cocktail's potency or prevent the risk of a terrible hangover the following day, all you need to do is decrease or increase the amount of ginger beer. Unlike most of the world's popular cocktails, there are few cocktails like the Suffering Bastard that have their origin in Africa.

How to make the Suffering Bastard Cocktail

Below are some of the essential ingredients you will need:

  • Ginger beer
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-ounce bourbon
  • Garnish: mint sprig
  • Two dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 ounce London dry gin


  • Carefully pour the lime juice, Angostura bitters, gin, and bourbon into a shaker filled with ice and thoroughly shake for 30 seconds or until well-chilled.
  • Strain the shaker's contents into a Collins glass half-filled with fresh ice.
  • Top with the ginger beer.
  • Garnish with a mint sprig

Final Words

When ordered in Tiki bars, the Suffering Bastard cocktail is usually presented in a uniquely-shaped Tiki mug that makes it look like a person with a hangover holding his hands over the top of his head due to pain. According to Cocktailsociety, the Suffering Bastard is the best cocktail to help you get rid of terrible hangovers.

Lily Wordsmith

Written by Lily Wordsmith

Lily Wordsmith is a freelance writer who has had a love affair with the written word for decades. You can find her writing blog posts and articles while sitting under a tree at the local park watching her kids play, or typing away on her tablet in line at the DMV. In addition to her freelance career, she is pursuing ebook writing with an ever-growing repertoire of witty ebooks to her name. Her diversity is boundless, and she has written about everything from astrobotany to zookeepers. Her real passions are her family, baking desserts and all things luxe.

Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith

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