Cocktail of the Day: the Eulogy
Just back from another visit to Houston (my stupendous nephew Thomas just turned 3!), and as is my wont it included a visit to one of my favorite bars, the stupendous Anvil Bar & Refuge. It was an even rarer treat this time, as my sister got to come with me — I hadn’t gotten to take her to a bar since well before the kids were born, and my brother-in-law kindly volunteered to stay home with the kids (the fact that he had to work from home that night was a factor as well). “It’s 7:15 and I’m driving away from my house with no children, and going to a bar!!” It makes me happy to facilitate the occasional boozy evening out for the mother of a two-year-old and a three-year-old.
On my previous Anvil visits I got to hang out with bartender/co-owner Bobby Heugel and have him take me through Anvil’s always challenging and exciting menu. This time Bobby was in South Africa, happily swilling Pinotage and having a well-deserved vacation, and behind the stick this was Justin Burrow, one of the other Anvil crew who I finally got to meet at Tales last year. Justin took great care of us on a busier-than-usual Sunday night, as he and his crew accommodated not only the usual locals but the entire cast of the touring production of “Miss Saigon,” who are performing in Houston at the moment and who descended on the bar en masse.
The first drink on the new seasonal menu that caught my eye was the one with the most unusual mix of ingredients — Batavia Arrack, Strega, Falernum and lime. Wow, now that’s a combination I hadn’t thought of, and I immediately ordered one. My sister said, “The only one of those ingredients I’ve ever heard of is lime!” whereupon Justin very kindly poured a little sip of each ingredient into a glass for her to taste, “a deconstructed version.”
If you’re not familiar with these ingredients either … Batavia Arrack is a sugar cane-based spirit also made with fermented Indonesian red rice, and is a basic component of Swedish Punsch. Strega is an Italian herbal liqueur with over 70 herbs and spices (the yellow color coming from saffron), and falernum is a sweetining and flavoring syrup originating in Barbados with flavors of almond, ginger, clove and lime. It’s frequently non-alcoholic, but this particular incarnation, John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum, is 11% abv. Melissa tasted each one … “Ooh, that’s funky,” to the arrack; “Wow, that’s really complex,” to the Strega; “Um, I’m draining this – you don’t get any” to the falernum. Hmm, guess I’ll have to buy her a bottle.
Justin explained that they had been doing inventory at the end of the year and there was an excess of arrack, Strega and falernum, and they wondered what they’d do with it as none of the drinks on the Anvil 100 call for them, and the current seasonal menu didn’t either. Justin started mixing, using the Last Word as a template, and lo and behold … they worked together beautifully.
Complex yet comforting and approachable, and still fairly light, I think this one’s a real winner.
3/4 ounce Batavia Arrack.
3/4 ounce Strega.
3/4 ounce John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum.
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
Combine with ice in a shaker, shake for 10 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. No garnish.
If you live in Houston or you’ll be visiting soon, don’t miss Anvil.