Thursday, November 3, 2011

Shrub Cocktails: La Tristeza de Lupe

As delicious as these shrubs can be as a non-alcoholic treat, there are those times when you could really use a nice slug of booze with them. As an avowed cocktail geek, I am always racking my brain trying to come up with a way to incorporate my shrubs into a cocktail. As of last night, the dream became a reality.

After a five month break, I visited one of my favorite places in the universe, the famed Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle, where the friendly and skilled barman, Mr. Ben Perri agreed to taste some shrub samples and see if he could work them into a cocktail. I was enjoying his on-the-fly concoctions including a Manhattan variant with Francoise, and a sort of mescal buck served up made with Frankie Teardrop, when I made a slight suggestion in the use of crowd favorite, Don Whoa.

I had kind of fooled around with the idea of using the pineapple based shrub in cocktails that normally might call for pineapple juice. My own home experiment with an Algonquin variant was an unholy disaster. The thing about Don Whoa that makes it tricky for cocktail use, is the earthy funkiness that the coconut vinegar lends it. If it were a straight up pineapple shrub, mixing with it would so much easier. Tasty, it might be, but its singular flavor profile makes it a fickle bastard in a drink. Clearly, this called for professional help.

I hadn't given up on doing a prohibition era update, and there was one I thought might still have a chance of working, the sweet, but tasty Mary Pickford. I mentioned to Ben that this was a direction I would be interested in traversing, and he instinctively gathered the requisite ingredients, and with a calm and deliberate demeanor nailed that sucker the first time out of the gate.

I loved it; this thing was smooth, and utilized the unique flavors of the shrub without being weird, and maintained that subtle, haunting heat that the habanero imparts in the finish. I asked Ben if I could name it, as I love naming drinks and have had one in mind in case this ever worked out. Since Mary Pickford was named after a silent film star, I felt that with the habanero component, it should be named after the lovely, but tragic Latina silent film star who once played a character named "Pepper."

[Editor's Note: Despite having years of intensive, nerdy study, it somehow escaped Kern's attention that there is already a cocktail called the Lupe Velez which contains rum, orange juice, kummel, and pimento dram. He could not be dissuaded from referencing Ms. Velez, so he instead made the title allude to the darker, more tragic aspects of her young life. Though I am loathe to admit Kern did something well, I grudgingly applaud the name change-Ed.]

So without further ado, meet La Tristeza de Lupe:

La Tristeza de Lupe

1.5 oz El Dorado 3 year rum
1 oz Don Whoa shrub
.25 oz Luxardo Maraschino
.25 oz grenadine(Please use the good stuff!)

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass or coupe. Enjoy. 

A giant thanks again to gentleman Benjamin Perri from the Zig Zag for indulging my cocktail/shrub fantasies and crafting such a brilliant tipple for us.