Tombstone Cocktail

A preface: This cocktail was first mixed and drunk at the National Historic Landmark Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York, where these four great jazz musicians are buried (clockwise from top left)—Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton and Coleman Hawkins. None of these jazzmen are associated with the Tombstone Cocktail, except here where TD raises a glass of anything to toast the memory and musical legacy of these giants of American jazz.

The story of this cocktail begins on October 3, 2004, when David Wondrich, author of Imbibe!, the biography of “the father of mixology,” 18th Century man about bars, Jerry Thomas (1830-1885), brought a group of bartenders and writers to Woodlawn to seek out Thomas’ grave. Thomas brought a bag of ice, a bottle of rye, bitters, sugar, 13 cocktail glasses, and a shaker. The contents were mixed and the shaker was passed around for a ceremonial shake.

TD is not sure how many shakes make a good cocktail, but this one was all shook-up, and the story made page 190 of Brad Thomas Parsons definitive book, Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All.

The recipe for the Tombstone:

Ingredients: (for one drink)

  • 2 oz. 100 proof rye
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angosture bitters
  • lemon twist for garnish


  • Martini/cocktail glass


  • Mix in ice-filled cocktail shaker until the ingredients are well chilled. Strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon twist, raise a toast to Jerry Thomas and the jazz giants who share the same turf at Woodlawn.

About Author

Josh is an author, former blogger, media critic, x-Capitol Hill legislative aide and White House assistant, business consultant, idea marketing specialist, a squatter at the global village virtual bar and an alpine rock gardener where he lives in Woodstock, NY.