Whenever a few knowledgeable cocktail aficionados from anywhere gather, New Orleans figures prominently in the discussion. Several reasons for that are: 1) New Orleanians as a species tend to be excellent customers of bars and distilled beverages; 2) You can’t walk 20-feet in this town without encountering a watering hole of significance; and 3) Many “recognized” cocktails were invented here or became closely associated with this city.
We can proudly and rightly take credit for creating one of the oldest named cocktails in existence, the Sazerac, dating back to the 1830’s. In fact, we are the only metropolitan area in the United States that through a governmental act has an Official Cocktail. That is the aforementioned Sazerac.
The Ramos Gin Fizz was invented here and still bears a native son’s name. The Vieux Carre, of course, could not have come from anyplace else but the bar in the Monteleone Hotel. The Hurricane is up for grabs. In the form we know it, the rum drink was created out of opportunity and first served at Pat O’Brien’s, but there is another version of the drink, distinctly different in ingredients, ascribed to and concocted in the Bahamas.
By the way, Pat O’s started as a speakeasy during Prohibition and not in its current location but in the next block of St. Peter towards the River, a history the current owners are shy about. There is a tale that the password “storm’s brewin’” was required to enter the establishment while the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was in force.
As for cocktails that we did not invent but managed to put a New Orleans stamp on their reputation, the French 75, Pimm’s Cup, Brandy Milk Punch, and a particularly sweet form of the Daiquiri.
What continues to be interesting about cocktails of every type when New Orleans is involved is that overall we are still one of the cocktail capitals of the world. And not only do we perform admirably at cocktail construction, but we show restraint and balance. When you travel around, you are struck by how many people are “behind the stick” who can’t make a decent drink. The flaws in many cocktails made in much larger cities are numerous and egregious.
Just like it is quite out of the ordinary to get a bad meal in this town, it is also very rare to be served a bad cocktail. Yes, it can happen but that’s not the norm. Our mixology community understands the organics of making a correct and delightful cocktail, balanced and soothing to the palate and the soul.
Anyway, there is a cocktail that was invented here and is hardly ever spoken about. That may be because The Grasshopper is usually associated with after-dinner or late night time periods. It’s not the drink with which one starts an evening or stays with as time passes.
The Grasshopper was invented at Tujague’s Restaurant, founded 1869. Now, you tell me how many towns can note that the second oldest restaurant still operating is almost 150 years old. That has to be a very short list of communities.
Anyway, The Grasshopper is made like this:
Combine equal parts green Crème de Menthe and Crème de Cacao. Add another equal amount of fresh cream. Shake with ice. Strain ice and pour into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass.
As in all cocktails, there are variations, such as the Flying Grasshopper , which substitutes vodka for the fresh cream, and the Brown Grasshopper which uses coffee in addition to all the other ingredients.
But likely, it’s the Frozen Grasshopper which has proven most popular. And this gives us the opportunity to address making frozen cocktails. There are some rules to be followed and not just pouring the usual drink into a blender loaded with ice cubes.
First of all, when making a frozen cocktail, all the ingredients and glasses should be cold. As cold as you can make them. This allows for longer blending which adds to the smoothness of the final product.
When you are ready to add ice, never cubes. Use small ice. If you only have ice cubes, break them up before blending. It’s easier on the equipment and will yield a more pleasant drink.
Some of the mixologists in New Orleans are returning to the use of the Lewis Bag, a strong canvas bag into which large chips of ice or cubes are placed and then, with a mallet the ice, is beaten and broken into smaller pieces. This not only yields ice of a good size for the blender, it also allows you to work out any aggression. The ice and you are better for the experience.
To your drink mix, add salt. Ordinary table salt will do. But don’t overdo. Salt in the mix actually brightens the acids in the final product and contributes to the savory quality of the drink. In a frozen drink, salt lowers the freezing point of the liquids, which in the end means the drink will not melt too quickly.
If you use a blender for your frozen drink, blend for 30-seconds, remove the bowl, give it a good shake, then blend again for 10-seconds. Everything will be at the consistency that will show off the drink to its maximum potential.
If you don’t mind another step, or if you are one of those anal amateurs, use an immersion blender before placing the ingredients into the large blender. You could use the large blender’s pulse feature before you actually crank it up if you don’t want to take the time with the immersion blender or dirty another utensil.
Can you stand one more variation on the Grasshopper? This time frozen, like a cocktail milkshake, as made at Pépé le Moko in Portland, Oregon, courtesy of Chilled Magazine.
1 ½ oz. Crème de Menthe
1 ½ oz. Crème de Cacao
4 oz. vanilla ice cream
8 oz. crushed ice
1 oz. Half-and-Half
1 tsp. Branca Menta
Pinch of salt
Add all ingredients together in order. Blend until smooth. Serve in a fountain-shoppe glass (milkshake-style). Add fresh mint garnish (less is more).