In the Spirit

Reinventing a Classic

He seeks to satisfy a stronger hunger, Grasshopper

By Tony Cross

When I first started bartending, I was 21 years old, and hadn’t a clue what I was doing. There was a huge part of me that thought all there was to the job was being fast and making the drinks strong. I thought this for a couple of reasons: I was young and dumb; and the clientele of a majority of the bars where I worked appreciated their drinks being made fast and strong. Since then, the cocktail renaissance, if you will, has happened, and it seems everyone has cool-looking bar aprons, and lots of men have stolen their mustaches from Mario’s brother, Luigi.

In those early days, I had one regular who would approach the bar toward the end of the night (it was a restaurant, so we’re not talking 3 a.m. here) and order a cocktail I had to look up in the lone bar book we had on hand — I believe it was a Mr. Boston Bartender’s and Party Guide. The gentleman would order stingers, toasted almonds or grasshoppers. They were all three-ingredient drinks that had to have been vehicles to a destination because, to me, they tasted pretty awful.

Well, it’s been many years since then, and drinks have evolved, including the grasshopper. Here are three ways to make the cocktail, from novice to master. And by master, I mean taking the time to buy quality ingredients and getting your hands a little dirty.

Easiest and Almost Drinkable

It’s straight from Mr. Boston. Three ingredients: crème de menthe, crème de cacao and light cream. I used heavy cream (if memory serves); light cream is basically coffee cream or “table cream.” It’s just a little bit higher in fat than half-and-half.

3/4 ounce crème de menthe (we had the clear Arrowhead brand)

3/4 ounce crème de cacao (again with the Arrowhead)

3/4 ounce light cream

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. There’s a small drawing of a martini glass next to the recipe in the book.

Pretty Damn Yum

This recipe comes from the Cocktail Codex, which came out a few years back. I love this quote: “This cocktail and many others of its ilk have been relegated to dive bars for decades, but as high-quality liqueurs have come to the market — made with actual mint and cacao rather than artificial flavorings — we’ve revisited these classics and added them to our repertoire.” More than likely, you’ll have to get these liqueurs online, so please don’t hesitate. It makes all the difference.

1 ounce Tempus Fugit white crème de menthe

1 ounce Giffard white crème de cacao

1 ounce heavy cream

8 mint leaves

Garnish: 1 mint leaf

Shake all the ingredients with ice. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with the mint leaf, placing it on top of the drink.

Baller Status

This recipe comes from The Aviary: Holiday Cocktails. The drinks are not as simple as 1-2-3, as you’ll see. However, if you enjoy time in the kitchen, this is a cinch.

1 1/4 ounces mint vodka (recipe below)

1 ounce Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao

1 ounce white chocolate syrup (recipe below)

1/4 ounce Ancho Reyes Verde Chile Poblano Liqueur

Combine all cocktail ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker. Shake until chilled and diluted, then double strain into a medium serving glass.

White chocolate syrup:

200 grams water

100 grams white chocolate, coarsely chopped

“Fill a large bowl with ice, and set a smaller bowl inside it. In a medium saucepan, combine the water and chocolate. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then pour the mixture into the bowl set in ice and allow it to cool completely. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer it to the refrigerator overnight. During that time, the fat in the chocolate will solidify and rise to the top of the mixture. The following day, strain the mixture through a mesh strainer, discarding the solidified chocolate fat. Transfer the mixture to a small bottle or an airtight container and reserve in the refrigerator.” Because the solidified fat gets thrown out, the final product isn’t gritty.

Mint vodka:

100 grams fresh mint

350 grams vodka, chilled thoroughly in the freezer before using

Blanch the mint. To do this, have a bowl of ice water ready and boil a pot of water. When the water comes to a boil, add the leaves (no stems, or bruised leaves) and boil for 30 seconds — no longer than 1 minute. Strain the water and add the mint leaves to the ice bath immediately. This is done so the leaves stop cooking. Drain the leaves, place them on a rag or paper towel making sure almost all moisture is gone.

“Transfer the blanched mint to a blender, and add the chilled vodka. Blend this mixture at high speed for 1 minute. (Blending at high speed has a tendency to heat liquids; we use pre-chilled vodka here to combat this, which helps keep the mint flavor bright and fresh.) Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, discarding all solids. Transfer to a glass bottle or an airtight container, and reserve it in the freezer to chill thoroughly.”  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.

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