It’s time to drink like a granny.
Respect to all the two-fisted martini grandmas out there, but some drinks have a reputation as being “doilies and hard ribbon candy” material. But, hey, not every drink has to be hip and macho, so this month, for part two of my series on forgotten drinks, we’re going to discuss drinks that are sweet, creamy and lower in alcohol—but wicked on the waistline. (It’s the holidays; treat yo’self!)
How did this column come along, you ask? I was walking around my neighborhood and saw one of our local Cretaceous period-sized grasshoppers and thought: “I haven’t had a grasshopper in forever! I should write about it.” So let’s hop right in!
“How’d they finally get to ya?”
“They gave me a grasshopper.”
“What’s a grasshopper?”
“Let me see. Two parts gin, two parts brandy, one part creme de menthe …”
Sorry, Robert De Niro; you got the recipe wrong. I can’t think of this drink without remembering this scene from the 1998 car commercial-cum-heist movie Ronin—and I couldn’t remember how to make this drink correctly for years because of it.
This creamy and irresistible cocktail always takes me back to my first “real” bar job. The boss and I decided to not end the night with a half-bottle of Jagermeister each anymore (I was young, and it was a ski town; don’t judge!) and instead would fill the blender with cheap creme de menthe, creme de cacao, ice and cream. We’d get two of those fishbowl glasses usually only found in margarita joints and ice cream parlors, and fill them up with minty-green goodness. Good times.
Don’t let the cheesy green color and sugar content fool you: This is a real, old-school drink! According to the “home of the original,” Tujague’s in New Orleans, the grasshopper was invented by owner Philibert Guichet for a New York cocktail competition in 1918. The grasshopper came in second (leaving me wondering what came in first!), and has been on the menu at Tujague’s ever since. This is their recipe:
- 1 ounce of Bols white creme de cacao
- 1/2 ounce of Bols dark creme de cacao
- 1/2 ounce of Bols green creme de menthe
- 1/2 ounce of Bols white creme de menthe
- 1/2 ounce of heavy whipping creme
Shake with ice and strain into Champagne flute; top with 1/8 of an ounce of brandy.
I haven’t tried the drink with this exact recipe. I have a feeling the Bols brand might have something to do with making this formula use four different cordials when two would do. I have always just used green creme de menthe, creme de cacao and cream (all equal parts), sometimes with a splash of brandy. I shake it over crushed ice; dump it into a cool stemmed glass or a brandy snifter; and top with a slapped bit of mint. Nowadays, I don’t use Bols, although I used to; instead, I use something more craft, like Tempus Fugit. (As always, not sponsored; I just love the product.) The problem with using natural products is that you won’t get the green color, but a couple of drops of green food coloring will fix that, if you care. You can always blend it, or strain it, and it will be a real crowd-pleaser at your next holiday function. Try adding Fernet or Chartreuse—or the combination of which that we cheeky bar types call “fartreuse”—to add a little more pop!
Now let’s move on to the “Stinger.” Is there any drink that’s more “Roaring ’20s” than this? This is an all-timer for me. It goes back so far that we don’t actually know where the drink came from! As always when I run aground, I look to David Wondrich. In a column for Esquire, he states that this drink definitely goes back well past Prohibition (creme de menthe to cover up the cheap hooch, anyone?) and was well-established as the drink of choice of the upper crust by the early 20th century. It was a favorite of Reginald Vanderbilt and hotshot fighter pilots alike, according to Wondrich. Try NOT to feel rich and cool while ordering one of these, much less drinking one. You should absolutely make this drink at home, and it’s so easy that even a Vanderbilt wouldn’t feel taxed by the effort. It’s smooth enough for a “non-drinker,” but boozy enough for the rest of us.
- 2 ounces of brandy (or gin, or white rum)
- 3/4 of an ounce of white creme de menthe (use Tempus Fugit)
Shake with ice; dump into an old fashioned glass or strain into a coupe, you titan of industry! No garnish.
Let’s end with a delicious drink that hardly anyone orders anymore, the “Smith and Kearns.” Eric Felten’s How’s Your Drink? (my newest bar-library purchase) states that it comes from the Blue Blazer in Bismarck, N.D., back in 1952. The bartender, Gebhard “Shorty” Doebber, whipped it up for a couple of hungover oilmen with the last names of “Smith” and “Curran” as a curative. One can kind of see how over the years, “Smith and Curran’s” with a slur or a Midwestern accent could easily become “Smith and Kearns.” This midcentury gem never really left the heartland, where it is still ordered often, but anywhere else, it makes it onto the “forgotten and underrated” list. It’s another easy one, too!
- 2 ounces of creme de cacao
- 1 ounce of heavy cream
Shake with ice; dump into a rocks glass; add soda.
There’s no garnish for this one, although I have been known to add a cherry to complete the “malt shoppe” vibe. You don’t even have to shake it; you can just build it. You could definitely crank it up with brandy or Demerara rum, if you wanted.
It turns out your Nana’s cocktails are pretty “OG” after all! Just keep her away from rogue reindeer this time of year.