It was the craze of the day.
The Bunny Hug (click to listen) was a ragtime dance. It was one of a family of ‘lewd’ animal dances that were originally danced in bars and bordellos and spread from there to the dance halls frequented by the more polite portion of American society. Other such dances included the Grizzly Bear, the Camel Hop and the Turkey Trot. In its day the Bunny Hug was the cutting edge, the latest fad. It was loved and loathed, and swept across America and around the world even as cities passed ordinances banning it. On March 27, 1913, dance hall manager Ed Spence of Grants Pass, Oregon was reported to be “in serious condition from 11 knife wounds as a result of trying to enforce his taboo of the ‘Bunny Hug’, the ‘Turkey Trot’ and like terpsichorean confections.” Forgotten today, the Bunny Hug once stirred passions.
The Bunny Hug was part of the transition from the old to the modern. Like ragtime itself, the Bunny Hug filled an awkward gap between two different ages. Traditionalists abhorred it. Its fashion conscious champions quickly discarded it The craze of the day changed. People hearing the words ‘bunny hug’ are now more likely think of a brand of diapers than anything else.
Fittingly, as the craze of the day the Bunny Hug had its name attached to a cocktail. You can resurrect the Bunny Hug by mixing equal parts whiskey, gin, and pastis, stirring over ice (or shaking) and straining into a cocktail glass. Any type of whiskey is OK, but given the strong flavors at work a blended Scotch probably brings a little more to the drink than a Bourbon does. On the other hand, in America (the place the drink would have been most popular) a rye or bourbon would have been more likely suspects. To be authentic substitute absinthe for the pastis.
This mixture of whiskey, gin and aniseed probably divides drinkers as much as Bunnyhug dance divided society. Liking pastis is obviously a prerequisite for trying this drink. Even then the drink is raw, unconventional, and not for the faint hearted. Give it a chance though and you will find some interesting layers of taste to reflect upon. Although this looks like a drink dreamed up by someone in a hurry to get drunk and not much caring how they went about it, just possibly this lush had a sense of style? They certainly created something to ponder on. The pastis grabs the foreground, while the gin and whiskey fight an unresolved struggle for second place. The mixture is jarring in the extreme, yet something in the chaos pulls it all together. Another nice thing about this drink is that virtually any bar has the ingredients on hand to make it (an important consideration given China’s sometimes primitive bar culture), and the concoction is robust enough to stand up to a fair bit of mistreatment. The only way to really destroy it would probably be to light it on fire. It makes a handy drink when in doubt but feeling brave.
In terms of cocktails, the Bunny Hug evokes another age, an age that predates almost everything drinkers now associate with the cocktail. The Bunny Hug predates vermouth atomizers, umbrella garnishes, Oreo cookie rimmed glassware, and snickered requests for Sex on the Beach. It caters to those expecting to be served straight liquor and not much else. Challenging and roughly stylish, it combines the fire of whiskey, the abandonment of gin and the divisive funkiness of pastis.
The same cocktail is now probably better known, in so far as it is known at all, as the Earthquake. Possibly someone recognized the problem with walking into a bar and requesting an extra large Bunny Hug? The name Earthquake is less evocative though. The Earthquake a potent concoction to be downed with lots of bravado and little thought. The Bunny Hug suggests something that to be savored, if only during a quick break from the dance floor.
This site is dedicated to the spirit of the Bunny Hug. Dubious it may be, but did it deserve to be quite so forgotten?