The Grasshopper

Grasshopper 1

Have I really never discussed with you peeps my love for mint chocolate chip ice cream? Let me rephrase more accurately -- my looooove, my looovvvvvelurrrrrvemmmmnomonomnomnomohmommymygoddammmnnn for mint chocolate chip ice cream? That's just not possible. Is that possible?

[Point of information, as I've just now bothered to fact-check my own query: It is indeed not possible. I blogged about my mint-chocolate fetish last June when I made up the Alexander the Great, my mint chip-arak concoction. Yum.]

What's really not possible, then, is that it's taken me this long to talk about the Grasshopper.

grasshopper 11

It is no mistake that in his book How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture and the Art of Drinking Well, my cocktail-historian crush, Eric Felten, chooses to discuss the Grasshopper, an all-liqueur dessert cocktail, immediately following the Pink Lady and preceding the Smith and Curran (aka the electric egg cream). Of those three, actually, the Pink Lady could wipe the floor with the other two, because at least the Pink Lady contains gin (as well as applejack brandy, which is no joke, and raw egg white, which has its certain Rocky connotations even as it does lend a cocktail a cap of frilly froth).

According to Felten, the Grasshopper was "a fad cooked up by marketing johnnies around 1949. The Leroux Liqueurs Company of Philadelphia only made cordials, so what better drink for them to promote than one anchored by a pair of liqueurs... Sweet, creamy and pretty, the Grasshopper quickly became an iconic girly drink."

And then he goes on to cite various postwar scribes who damned the drink with faint praise ("so-called cocktail," "something of learned vulgarity") in a way that reminds me of how current-day critics love to jump on the Girls hate-wagon in what basically amounts to condescending woman-bashing codespeak.

(Yes, dammit, I am making a link between a dessert cocktail and HBO's latest zeitgeist-rattler. My husband is a Ph.D. student, I binged on the first season of Girls as if it were a bag of York Peppermint Patties (which is exactly what the Grasshopper tastes like YES IT TASTES LIKE THE WHOLE BAG) and I dream about cocktails constantly so... yeah.)

Grasshopper 2

When I was watching the PhoBlograpHusband edit these gorg Grasshopper pics he shot, I asked him, "Is that really just cream and creme de menthe and creme de cacao? Is that really all we put in there?" And he looked at me funny and I said, "I just can't believe -- it just doesn't seem like those are three ingredients that would really coalesce together as well as they do. I just can't believe how good this cocktail looks."

Grasshopper 4

See, I internalized the girly-bashing just a bit, when what I really need to internalize is another Grasshopper. In my belly. That's what she said!

The Grasshopper

(A classic; this recipe is based on my own from The Big Book of Martins for Moms)

1 ounce green creme de menthe

1 ounce white creme de cacao

1 to 2 ounces cream

Mint leaves or chocolate shavings, to garnish

Combine the three liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass. Top with mint leaves or chocolate shavings.

Tasting Notes

Obviously, the stiffer you like your drink, the closer you want to hold to that 1:1:1 ratio. Add that extra ounce of cream for your cousin who just turned 21.

What kind of cream? Half-and-half will work just fine if that's what you've got. Otherwise it's just what your tastebuds prefer. (Speaking of, I read in the New York Times' recent review of Salt Sugar Fat that there is no known point at which a creamy drink becomes too creamy for the average set of tastebuds. Too sweet is a measurable, reachable endpoint but not too fatty/creamy. Just a little cocktail-party factoid for you... and which I guess you could interpret to mean that your tastebuds would prefer melted butter. Gah. Stick to heavy or whipping cream at most.)

Felten says you can use either light (i.e. clear) or dark creme de cacao. I'd play it safe and stick with the light as I would not want to risk a swampy-hued Grasshopper. Felten, for what it's worth, describes the resulting shade as sage green. Revenge of the Sage Thing!!!

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The Alexander the Great

MmmmmMMMMmmmmm nom nom NOM NOM NOM NOM

Now, I have never started a post with such gustatorial, guttural nonsense. So you must realize, people, me reeeeeally likey this cocktail.

And how could I not, as it contains the greatest food known to man: Mint. Chocolate. Chip. Ice. Cream. Zomg. (Mark Bittman would argue it's not a "food" at all. Mark Bittman can suck it.) Srsly, I could live on mint chocolate chip ice cream, in either of its two glorious hues: au naturel white or 50s-sci fi green. It's my ambrosia and my manna rolled into one. It's my manbrosia!

So here's the backstory on the Alexander the Great. I'm still working on my weeks-old reader challenge to come up with cocktails suitable for showcasing -- or at least, for palatably drinking down one's stash of -- ouzo, that tricky and troublesome anise-flavored Greek liqueur that's oh-so-hard to get along with when you're any other possible cocktail ingredient. So far I've done up the Greek Tiger, aka the screwdriver of Greece, and a raspberry mint lemonade concoction that manages to throw enough up against ouzo's bomastic licoriceness to tame it nicely.

But I still wasn't done; one of my teacher's-pet neurons did some extra credit work and fired off a message to me: Do an Alexander! A couple winters ago, I'd rolled out an entire week of Alexander posts, reveling in the creamy decadence of this most aristocratic of dessert cocktails. (I say "aristocratic" because the Brandy Alexander, the most well-known Alexander to date, was invented for a royal wedding in the 1920s.) Another historical triv bit I'd mentioned was that the original Alexander, i.e. the one just known as "an Alexander," was made with gin as its base liquor, followed by the all-Alexanders ingredient template of creme de cacao and cream or ice cream.

When I'd blogged that one, I'd gone with a mint-chip gelato, and when I thought about an ouzo-tinged take on an Alexander, it all just came together. I'd learned from the lemonade cocktail that mint's a good sparring partner for ouzo, which could simply be swapped in for the creme de cacao. Gin, mint and ouzo all have that herbaceous thing going that I always love to play with. The cocktail's called an Alexander, and this one's got Greece's national liqueur in it, and Alexander the Great was Greek!

As one of my 1980s primetime heroes would say, I love it when a plan comes together.

The Alexander the Great

1 1/4 ounces Bombay Dry Gin

3/4 ounces Arak Razzouk*

3/4 ounces Haagen-Dazs Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Fennel seeds or ground nutmeg or sesame seeds, to garnish

Combine gin, arak/ouzo, and ice cream in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Strain into a well-chilled cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish as desired.

Tasting Notes

*For those would have just joined us, arak is basically Lebanon's own anise-flavored liqueur and can be used interchangeably with ouzo in whatever recipe. I happen to have a bottle of arak I'm trying to kill of so that's why I used that.

Which garnish to use? Sesame seeds if you want some salty-sweet action going on in your glass. Ground nutmeg if you'd rather play up the straightforward sweet. Fennel if you like the herbal-green flavor of it all.

A mint sprig is always a nice garnish, too.

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