Like the England/Italy combination in Group D, I’ve been looking forward to France/Switzerland in this group. That’s because these two countries are closely tied with the scandalous spirit of absinthe.
This also means I have an excuse to include a gratuitous image of L’Absinthe by Degas:
I used a tiny dash absinthe in a previous group’s cocktail, but here it’ll take the center stage. France is popularly associated with this spirit, as its artists and celebrities brought it prominence in 19th- and 20th-century Paris. But the creation of absinthe goes back to 18th-century Switzerland, and Swiss politicians are trying to prevent other countries from using the term “absinthe.”
This is actually why I enjoyed the French drubbing of the Swiss team last week. I imagine that a soccer victory has somehow invalidated their silly politics.
Anyway, to the cocktail. For this pair of teams, I have to go to a favorite from my weekends working at North Shore Distillery. Co-owner Sonja Kassebaum has created possibly most delicious absinthe cocktail known to man (in my biased opinion). You can call it the Parisian Mule or Suisse Mule, depending on which team you’re cheering for:
Parisian / Suisse Mule
1 oz – absinthe verte
½ oz – Cointreau
½ oz – orgeat
½ of a lime, cut into wedges
In a collins glass, muddle the lime and orgeat. Add absinthe, Cointreau, and fill the glass with ice. Top with ginger beer, stir gently, and garnish with a lime wedge.
I realize that absinthe can be a divisive liquor — American palates tend to rebel against the ‘black licorice’ flavor of anise or fennel. But give this one a try. You won’t see any green fairies, but you’ll feel invigorated as you cheer on France or Switzerland.
I wanted to do a similar thing for Ecuador, as the description of a national liquor (Espiritu del Ecuador) sounded rather tasty. Unable to find a bottle, I turned to possible national drinks. One recipe that popped up reminded me a little bit of a toddy, but with spice and Ecuadorian rum (more accurately, a sugarcane spirit known as aguardiente). It may be a bit warm to suggest a hot beverage, but I think this is too good to pass up:
8 oz – water
2 tbsp – sugar
¼ oz – fresh lemon juice
a couple cinnamon sticks
a few cloves
1-2 oz – Zhumir aguardiente
Combine everything but the aguardiente in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and let simmer for at least 15 minutes. Pour into a mug, and add aguardiente to taste. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
This looks slightly different than most recipes I find for Canelazo, as they tend to omit lemon or include South American fruits like naranjilla. Since I’m mixing these cocktails in Chicago, I’ve turned it slightly towards the toddy style of drink. You can find aguardiente in Chicago — specifically the Zhumir brand, in silver & reposado varieties. If none of the nearby liquor stores have it, rum is a fine (if imperfect) substitute.
Taking this group’s cocktail theme to its logical conclusion, let’s head up to Honduras for the final cocktail. If we were literally heading to Honduras, we could find all the ingredients listed below, from the Flor de Caña rum in Nicaragua (and Honduras) to the cardamom from Guatemala (and Honduras). Rum, lime, and pineapple will never let you down when they get together, and the addition of cardamom gives the drink that slight spicy surprise:
1½ oz – aged rum
1 oz – pineapple juice
½ oz – cardamom simple syrup
¼ oz – fresh lime juice
dash of Angostura bitters
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until cold, and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a dash of ground cardamom.
The syrup is easy to make, as it’s merely a matter of adding cracked cardamom pods to your basic simple syrup preparation. If you want ratios, this recipe from Imbibe is a good place to start. In general, playing with flavor in your syrups can open up a range of cocktail options for your own libations.
Stick around for the next group, brought to you by Fernet, slivovitz, and the color green.