Cocktails of the day: Pastis apéritifs

Back, by special request. (Thanks, Chris.) It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on this subject.

I read a book on aperitifs recently and found some excellent recipes for pastis cocktails. I’m a big pastis fan — the anise-flavored spirits such as Herbsaint, Ricard, Pernod, et al. — and it’s a great way to sit back, prime your taste buds for your meal, and basically feel civilized.

There’s still ritual involved with it, left over from the days of the absintheurs, which I also enjoy. (If you have any, you could of course use absinthe as well.) The narrow, heavy-bottomed glass, the pitcher of cold water, the slotted spoon and sugar cube if it needs sugar, the pouring, the clouding-up … it’s fun. They say that pastis epitomizes the south of France, and Provence in particular. I could say that a pastis drink immediately transports me back there … um, ‘cept I’ve never been. Yet.

The excellent book Aperitif, by Georgeanne Brennan, has introduced me to three variations on classic pastis which she learned about from neighbors while living in Provence. They all have an ounce of pastis and 4 – 5 ounces of cold water in common, but are all flavored with different sweetened syrups — almond, grenadine and mint. This produces vibrant colors in these drinks as well, and their names, particularly “The Tomato” and “The Parrot”, refer to their color rather than anything having to do with their flavor. (I’m not sure I’d want a parrot-flavored cocktail anyway.) My favorite so far is La Mauresque, although I have yet to try Le Perroquet.

These are all very common in Provence, so if you ever go there you can order these at the village café and sound like you know what you’re talking about, instead of sounding like a dumb foreigner.

La Mauresque
Pour one ounce of pastis into the glass, followed by 1 tablespoon of orgeat syrup (you can substitute almond syrup), then pour in about 4 ounces of cold water, and an ice cube or two if you like. Stir and serve.

La Tomate
Pour one ounce of pastis into the glass, followed by 1 tablespoon of grenadine, then pour in about 4 ounces of cold water, and an ice cube or two if you like. Stir and serve.

Le Perroquet
Pour one ounce of pastis into the glass, followed by 1 tablespoon of green mint syrup, then pour in about 4 ounces of cold water, and an ice cube or two if you like. Stir and serve.

Hair of the three-headed, fire-breathing dog

Somebody wrote me recently asking about cocktails containing Chartreuse. It’s a powerful concoction, intensely herbal and 110 proof strong, not for everyone. I’ve been developing quite a taste for it, though, and I’m working up the courage to try the Tailspin, a current DrinkBoy favorite.


3/4 ounce gin.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
1 dash Campari.

Shake with cracked ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist and cherry.

Water on fire

Just for the hell of it, at the last minute I added the Combustible Edison to the menu for last Saturday’s cocktail party. Ever since I read about it I thought it’d be fun to make, but I’d never gotten around to makign one. I’m still not a huge Campari fan (although I’m working on developing more of a taste for it), but I thought that maybe someone else might be adventurous and order one. Sure enough, when our friends Gregg and Mike mentioned that they were both Campari fans, I suggested this drink, and their eyes lit up. Pretty soon, the counter where I was mixing the drinks lit up too.

The story behind the drink is at the Drinkboy link above, and I reproduce the recipe for you here.

The Combustible Edison

2 ounces brandy (we like a good Cognac like Hennessy V.S.O.P.)
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

Add the Campari and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker with ice; shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Heat the brandy on the stove or in a chafing dish. If the heating vessel doesn’t have a pouring spout, put the brandy into something that does.

Lower the lights, carefully ignite the brandy, and pour it into a flaming stream into the cocktail glass. Aim well. If you’re a klutz, have a friend standing by with a fire extinguisher. (I’m a klutz, but I managed to do this perfectly last Saturday.)

If the brandy is shaken with the ice instead of being set aflame, the drink is called an Edisonian.

It’s even more fun when you make two of them at the same time.

Cocktail of the day: Batida Paulista

More interesting correspondence, this time with Chris Viljoen (who offered the Preview cocktail a while back). We’ve been talking Caipirinhas, and variations thereof.

Thanks to Chris, I’ve learned that Caipirinhas made here aren’t quite the same as the ones made in Brazil, even using Brazilian cachaça; they don’t taste quite the same. Some of his Brazilian friends told him that to get it perfect, you must use Brazilian sugar, which has more of a molasses content than our white granulated sugar. I asked him if turbinado (“sugar in the raw”) would work, and he said it’s not quite the same either — perhaps an equal mixture of white and turbinado might be closer. In any case, I’ll be looking for Brazilian sugar at El Camaguey Market, or the Palms Latino market (thanks again for that one, Greg!) on Motor. They also use a specific type of Brazilian lime called taiti, which are obviously going to be much more difficult to get here. (I guess I’m just going to have to go to Brazil and get a real one.)

Apparently they also make versions of the Caipirinha using other fruits besides limes, including strawberries and the cashew nut fruit, caju. I first tried cashew nut fruit juice at a terrific little Brazilian restaurant in West Hollywood called Itana Bahía. It’s absolutely luscious. You can find it frozen in Latin or Brazilian markets, and you muddle some of that along with about half the amount of lime.

Here’s an interesting looking variation on the Caipirinha, which has a little froth from the addition of egg whites.

Batida Paulista
(from the city of São Paulo)

2 teaspoons egg white.
2 tablespoons superfine sugar (Brazilian if possible).
2 ounces cachaça.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
3-4 ice cubes.

Combine the egg white, sugar, lime juice, ice and cachaça in a shaker. Shake vigorously about 15 times. Strain into a chilled Old-Fashioned glass and garnish with a thin slice of lime.

Cocktail of the day: Crusta

My friend Sheldon writes, “No more cocktail porn! Although the infused vodka looks interesting…”

No no, Shel … cocktail porn is good. :-)

Here’s another one I’ve seen in the old books and was nudged into trying by the bartenders at Petrossian in Las Vegas. It was supposedly invented at a New Orleans joint called Santina’s Saloon in the mid-1800s, although I’d never really heard of it growing up in New Orleans (then again, there’s a whole lot of stuff out there that I don’t know).

The traditional spirit for this drink is brandy or Cognac, but Bourbon has been known to be substituted (the Petrossian version specifically called for brandy, though). After studying both the Petrossian version and the somewhat different version I found in Herbst & Herbst’s The Ultimate A-to-Z Bar Guide, I’ve arrived at a mélange of both that I find appealing, although I have no idea which is closest to the original. In fact, I’ll include all three. (To confuse matters further, DrinkBoy has one that calls for Bourbon.)

(Petrossian version)

1-1/2 ounces Raynal VSOP brandy
1/2 ounce Maraschino
1-1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 ounces sugar syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters

(Herbst version)

2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Cointreau
1 teaspoon Maraschino

(2001 adaptation)

2 ounces brandy or Bourbon
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce Maraschino
2 teaspoons Cointreau
1 teaspoon sugar syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters

For any of the above recipes, moisten the rim of a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon wedge, then dip the rim into superfine granulated sugar. Shake all ingredients with cracked ice, then strain into the glass. Drape a very long spiral of either orange or lemon peel into and hanging out of the glass by about two inches, then serve.

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