Long Live the King

A cocktail for toasting to Elvis Presley, on the forty-fifth anniversary of his death


This year marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, a milestone his Graceland home is honoring by welcoming the King’s family, friends, and costars for Elvis Week, which lasts through August 17. Musicians from around the world are slated to perform; a candlelight vigil and look-alike contests are also on the agenda.

But if you aren’t able to get to Memphis for Elvis Week, you can still raise a glass, as Drew Childers plans to. “I’ve loved Elvis since I was a kid,” says Childers, the managing partner of Harold’s Cabin in Charleston, South Carolina, who created a signature cocktail for the bar for the occasion. “How could you not appreciate a man who puts bananas on a sandwich?” Indeed.

His Long Live the King cocktail makes for an equally fitting tribute, and also features Elvis’s penchant for bananas and peanut butter, reimagined by Childers in liquid form. The cocktail starts with a base of Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond Whisky, which, he says, “has a robust caramel flavor, coupled with rich vanilla and roasted coffee notes.”

The banana liqueur gets half of Elvis’s sandwich right, but for the peanut butter aspect, Childers challenged himself to make an orgeat syrup from scratch.

Orgeat, a common ingredient in Tiki cocktails such as the mai tai, includes almonds and orange blossom water, and it can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to make at home or in a bar. It’s also readily available in bottled format from companies like Small Hand Foods, out of San Francisco, and El Guapo, down in New Orleans.

For Childers, though, paying homage to one of his favorite musicians was worth the extra effort. He wanted to include a tie to Charleston as well, so he used local benne seeds (available from purveyors like Anson Mills) instead of peanuts, which gave the syrup a toastier, deeper flavor than do the usual sesame seeds. And in turn, “This syrup helps intensify the vanilla flavor of the whisky but adds nutty undertones,” Childers explains. “The addition of fresh lime juice then brings the citrus notes forward, too.”

No one would fault you for making a Long Live the King at home, using store-bought orgeat. However, if you have a sturdy saucepan and like a challenge, throw on a few Elvis records or a marathon of his movies and get to work.


  • Long Live the King (Yield: 1 cocktail)

    • 2 oz. Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond Whisky

    • 1 oz. banana liqueur

    • ½ oz. homemade benne seed orgeat (recipe follows; or use a premium store-bought classic orgeat)

    • ½ oz. fresh lime juice

  • For the benne seed orgeat:

    • 15 oz. Anson Mills benne seeds

    • 7½ cups (a 2 lb. bag) granulated sugar

    • ½ oz. orange blossom water

    • 2 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur


  1. Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake. Strain and serve up in a coupe glass.

  2. If making the benne seed orgeat: Boil 1 quart of water in a medium pot. Leave aside on a low boil.

  3. Heat the oven to 325°F. Lay benne seeds on a baking tray. Toast until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

  4. Immediately after pulling the seeds out of the oven, put them into your boiling water bath. Turn off the heat. Soak the seeds overnight, for a minimum of 16 hours.

  5. Add the seeds and their soaking liquid into a blender, and blend until smooth.

  6. Place a fine mesh strainer or chinois over a large pot or Dutch oven. Pour seed liquid through the strainer, gently pressing against the sides with a ladle or spoon, in order to push the liquid through. Discard solids once all liquid has been expressed.

  7. The container should now contain a light tan “benne milk.” Add water to bring the total mixture to 1½ quarts. Add the granulated sugar, then simmer on low, stirring as needed, for about 15 minutes. Make sure the sugar is dissolved, but avoid caramelizing.

  8. Cool completely. Add the orange blossom water and liqueur. Stir to combine.

  9. This benne seed syrup is excellent in any drink that calls for orgeat, but it’s also great splashed into coffee. Store it in a container with a tight lid and keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.