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5 Cocktails to Make for USMC Birthday

by Yajush Sharma


The United States Marine Corps turns 245 years old on November 10, 2020. The USMC’s journey began when 2 Continental Marine battalions were formed on November 10, 1775, in Philadelphia. The original members were chosen based on their prowess to fight both on land and in water, and this new service branch played a decisive role in the American War of Independence.


The USMC remains one of the world’s first major amphibious service branches.

Since then, the Marine Corps has served the country with distinction, valor, and dignity. While the USMC is officially designated as a ‘maritime land force’, this service branch has participated with and lent its expertise to the United States Army, Air Force, and the Navy.

On their birthday, we can honor a retired or a serving Marine by whipping up some of the cocktails we have curated. Note, however, that there is no such thing as a ‘retired’ Marine.

One of the common aphorisms of the USMC is: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Let’s keep our cocktails simple. Nothing pleases a Marine better!

1. The Fanciulli Cocktail

Like everything associated with the Marines, this cocktail has a rather interesting history. The story goes that in 1897’s Memorial Day parade, the US Marine Band was led by Francesco Fanciulli. Unfortunately, he was court-martialed because he refused to pay heed to a request from a senior officer.

However, his punishment was overturned by a certain Teddy Roosevelt! The cocktail is named after Fanciulli because of the initial bitter notes followed by progressively lighter ones.


  • 1½ oz bourbon
  • Fernet Branca, the noted Italian amaro- ¼ to ½ oz
  • ¾ oz of Italian red vermouth. Any other comparable vermouth will also do.
  • For garnishing, some orange peel


  • Fill a mixing glass with ice and pour in all these ingredients sans the garnish. Do not shake the drink; instead, stir it for about a minute till the mixture is chilled.
  • Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass and add the orange peel on the side. 
  • You can rely on the Fanciulli as a wholesome aperitif.

2. The US Marine Corps cocktail



It is one of the most recognized names cutting across armed services. A simple drink to make, it reflects wartime austerity. This cocktail is also widely known as the ‘5-4-3-2-1’ Martini, as its ingredients will shortly show. This recipe shows measurements for one glass as well as for making it in large quantities.


  • 5 parts or 1.5 Oz vodka- chilled thoroughly.
  • 4 parts or 1.4 Oz gin.
  • 3 sizeable cubes of ice.
  • 2 parts or 1.5 Oz sherry, especially its Pale Dry variant.
  • 1 part or 1 -1 ½ Oz water.
  • A few olives.


  • Take a medium-sized mixing glass, pour everything in it, and let freeze for 4-5 hours. 
  • Take out the mixing glass 15 minutes before serving. 
  • Pour it straight into a Martini glass and add a few olives as garnish. 

Never shake or stir this Martini.

3. The Suffering Bastard

This was one of the many ‘tools of war’ that the Marines lent to the British Forces fighting against the legendary German tank and desert-warfare master, Erwin ‘The Desert Fox’ Rommel, in Egypt. Each time the British troops came up against Rommel’s superbly trained troops, they returned with bloody noses. 

Someone noted that hangovers caused by drinking local liquor were the culprit. The USMC’s liquor maestros came up with this cocktail for their British comrades at roughly the same time General Patton and England’s Montgomery took charge. The rest is history.


  • 30 ml each of gin and brandy
  • 15 ml of sweet lime juice
  • Angostura bitters- 3 to 4 dashes
  • Ginger beer for topping off.
  • Orange slice and mint leaves for garnishing


  • Shake everything barring the ginger beer in a chilled mixing glass. 
  • Add some ice cubes, wait for 2 minutes and strain into a glass. 
  • Feel free to use a few mint leaves or an orange slice for garnishing.

4. Guadalcanal Cocktail

Named after the death-at-each-step battle to capture Guadalcanal (a tiny, but strategically essential for the Pacific Front, island during WW2), this cocktail was born when the CIC of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz, left a few crates of ‘Old Crow Bourbon’ for around 11,000 Marines!

To compensate for the puny amounts of bourbon, grapefruit juice was added. And a USMC legend was born.


  • Bourbon- 1 jigger or around 40 to 60 ml 
  • Grapefruit juice- preferably unsweetened
  • A number of ice cubes, mixed sizes


  • This does not require any special or fancy glass. 
  • Take any whiskey glass, highball, or tumbler, and pour in the bourbon with ice. 
  • Add multiple layers of grapefruit juice. 
  • The result is a smooth drink with rich notes of citrus fruits. Garnish with the peel of an orange.

5. The Bees Nees

This one comes straight from the pages of the USMC’s museum. It is a gin cocktail and has been mentioned multiple times in the Marines’ official magazine, ‘Leatherneck.’ 

Its original recipe remains the same, but the method of preparation has changed multiple times. Especially during wartime, preparation methods tended to be pretty risqué.


  • 2 oz of gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice, preferably freshly squeezed
  • 1 oz honey syrup. This can be made by adding equal parts of honey and hot water.


  • Add everything in a mixer filled with chunks of ice and shake vigorously. 
  • You can also add an extra layer of honey syrup for a sweet aftertaste.
  • Garnish the cocktail with an orange peel.

These 5 different cocktails have one element in common: they are simple to make and hardly require something we cannot find at a local supermarket. 

Most battle formations in the world, regardless of the country, require a bit of ‘Dutch Courage’, something that these 5 cocktails provide in ample quantities.

If you don’t believe us, ask any Marine come November 10!

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