Mark Twain Cocktail Recipe

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Mark Twain Nutrition Facts






Created by

Nic Polotnianko

I fell in love with the art of mixology 6 years ago. Since then, I've honed my skills, crafting a myriad of cocktail recipes, and sharing my passion with other enthusiasts.

Last Updated: January 7, 2024


The Mark Twain cocktail is named after the famous American author, who was known for his love of whiskey. This classic cocktail was first mentioned in the 1930s and has been a favorite among literary enthusiasts and whiskey lovers alike. It is said to be a drink that Mark Twain himself would have enjoyed.

  • The cocktail is believed to have originated in the United States
  • It gained popularity during the Prohibition era
  • The drink is often associated with literary figures and intellectual gatherings

How Mark Twain Tastes?

The Mark Twain cocktail has a well-balanced, slightly sweet and sour taste with a strong whiskey base. The lemon juice adds a refreshing citrus note, while the simple syrup provides a hint of sweetness. The bitters give it a complex, aromatic finish.

Interesting facts about Mark Twain

  • The Mark Twain cocktail is often served in a rocks glass, but can also be served in a martini glass for a more elegant presentation
  • It is a versatile drink that can be enjoyed year-round, but is particularly popular during the colder months
  • The cocktail is sometimes garnished with a lemon twist or cherry, adding a touch of color and extra flavor



Why 2oz? It's the heart of our cocktail - not too strong, not too weak, just right to let those literary juices flow. More might knock you off your reading chair, less and you'd be asking where's the spirit of Twain.

Flavor: Whiskey brings the fire and depth. Without it, you'd have mocktail on your hands. Sure, Twain might've had a sense of humor, but an alcohol-free Mark Twain cocktail? That's straight-up sacrilege!

Alternatives: A rye whiskey could spice things up, whereas a bourbon brings more sweetness. Adjust the simple syrup accordingly, or it might just get too sweet for even Tom Sawyer's taste.

Mary Mitkina

Lemon Juice

Why 0.5oz? Enough to pucker your lips like you've just read Twain's wittiest satire. Too much and you’d be pulling a face like you've seen a ghost at the haunted house in Missouri.

Flavor: It's the zing in your swing, the citrus that cuts through rich whiskey, balancing it out. Skip it and the drink would be as dull as a steamboat ride with no adventure in sight.

Alternatives: Lime juice could work in a pinch, but the flavor profile would shift to something more akin to a Kentucky Mule.

Mary Mitkina

Simple Syrup

Why 0.5oz? This little dash of sweet whispers tales of relaxation without overpowering the narrative. Too much sweetness could turn the tale sour, and not enough would leave your tastebuds stranded in a bitter plight.

Flavor: It smooths out the tartness from the lemon and the bite of the whiskey. Removing it would be like removing the punchline of a joke—not recommended if you want a happy ending.

Alternatives: If you're feeling adventurous, try a honey syrup or maple syrup for a different kind of sweet plot twist.

Alex Green

Angostura Bitters

Why 2 dashes? That's just enough mystery to keep the plot intriguing. Any more might create a bittersweet twist that's too intense; any less and you'd miss the depth and complexity altogether.

Flavor: Bitters are the spiced whispers in the background, rounding out the drink with herbaceous intrigue. It’s the spice that makes the story of the cocktail as compelling as a Twain novel.

Alternatives: Orange bitters could be a subtle change that adds a fruity note to the narrative, without straying too far from the original manuscript.

Mary Mitkina

Lemon Twist

Why? It’s the flourish on the final chapter, the twist ending we didn’t see coming but makes complete sense. A cocktail without garnish is like Twain without his mustache – recognizable, but lacking that iconic flair.

Flavor: It adds a subtle fresh aroma that makes each sip feel like a fresh page. Without it, the sensory experience falls short, much like a novel without a cover.

Alternatives: An orange twist could work, offering a slightly sweeter, less sharp aromatic profile.

Mary Mitkina

Recipe. How to make Mark Twain Drink

  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice
  2. Add the whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters
  3. Stir well to combine and chill the mixture
  4. Strain the cocktail into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice
  5. Garnish with a lemon twist

Pro Tips

Use *high-quality whiskey for the best flavor Chill the glass before serving for a *refreshing touch Add the bitters last for a *complex finish

Perfect Pairings

Food Pairings

Meat: Smoky flavors like barbecued ribs or a grilled steak are great companions due to the whiskey's robust character.

Cheese: A sharp cheddar or aged gouda can play nicely against the citrus notes and sweetness of the Mark Twain.

Dessert: Lemon tart or cheesecake can complement the cocktail's citrus and sweet balance.

Snacks: Salted nuts or pretzels can provide a simple salty counterpart to this refreshing drink.

Drink Pairings

Coffee: A strong black coffee can be a nice follow-up to the cocktail, especially if sipping on a Mark Twain during a leisurely brunch.

Non-Alcoholic: Sparkling water with a hint of citrus will cleanse the palate without competing with the flavors of the cocktail.

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What you could change in Mark Twain

*Replace whiskey with bourbon for a sweeter taste *Use lime juice instead of lemon for a different citrus note *Substitute simple syrup with honey for a natural sweetener

Explore all drinks starting with M here

And of course - twists🍹

Smoky Twain

Replace the whiskey with a smoky scotch.

Step into a smokier chapter with a robust scotch. The deeper, peated notes of the scotch will mirror the foggy banks of the Mississippi, adding a mysterious layer to the narrative.

Sweet Southern Charm

Substitute simple syrup with peach syrup and add a splash of sweet tea.

Infuse a touch of southern hospitality into the mix. The peach syrup will add a warm, summery sweetness while the sweet tea rounds out the drink with a comforting aroma akin to a porch swing on a lazy afternoon.

The Huck Finn

Use half bourbon, half applejack as your whiskey choice, and garnish with a thin apple slice.

Rally your youthful spirit with this twist. The applejack adds a playful, fruity note, just like Huck's adventures, while the bourbon maintains the grounded, classic tone of the original cocktail.

In case you forgot basics how to make Mark Twain

The basic composition of simple syrup is relatively straightforward – a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. This mixture is heated until the sugar dissolves, resulting in a clear, sweet syrup.

Learn everything about simple syrup

Place your chosen strainer on top of the shaker or mixing glass, ensuring a secure fit. Pour the cocktail into a glass through the strainer, which will catch solid ingredients and ice. If double straining, hold the fine mesh strainer between the shaker and the glass.

Learn everything on how to strain

Insert the spoon into the glass until it touches the bottom. Keep the back of the spoon against the inside wall of the glass, and stir in a smooth, circular motion. The goal is to swirl the ice and ingredients together without churning or splashing.

Learn everything on how to stir

Garnishing a bar drink depends on the type of garnish and the cocktail. Generally, it involves preparing the garnish (like cutting a citrus wheel or picking a sprig of mint), and then adding it to the drink in a visually appealing way (like perching it on the rim or floating it on top).

Learn everything on garnishing

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Frequently Asked Questions on Mark Twain

What type of whiskey is most suitable for a Mark Twain cocktail?

While the choice remains subjective, traditionally a rye whiskey or bourbon is used. However, a good rule of thumb is to use a whiskey that you would enjoy drinking straight.

How does shaking the cocktail instead of stirring it affect the taste?

Shaking a cocktail mix generally adds aeration and dilution, which can change the texture and taste. For the Mark Twain cocktail, stirring is recommended to keep the strong and complex flavors of whiskey.

What food pairings would go well with the Mark Twain cocktail?

The slightly sweet and sour flavor profile of the Mark Twain pairs well with savory snacks, smoked cheeses, roasted nuts or dark chocolate.

What's the best time to serve a Mark Twain cocktail?

The Mark Twain cocktail can be enjoyed any time of the day, but it is notably popular as an evening cocktail, specially during cozy indoor gatherings.

Are there any non-alcoholic substitutes that can be used for the Mark Twain cocktail?

A non-alcoholic or 'mocktail' version of the Mark Twain could use a dark non-alcoholic spirit or non-alcoholic whiskey as a substitute.

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