Today: A minty, creamy, boozy milkshake grows up -- and we get the perfect summer drink.
Not many of us have ordered Grasshoppers in the past 40 years, and it's easy to see why: Traditionally, the drink is equal parts cheap crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and heavy cream -- shaken and served in a martini glass -- and is precisely the color of milky Astroturf.
But when Jeffrey Morgenthaler puts a Grasshopper on his menu, you pay attention. "I know what you're thinking -- overly sweet and yuck," Food52er hardlikearmour told me. "But trust Jeffrey Morgenthaler in all things cocktail and you won't be disappointed."
More: 5 ways to get classier cocktails from Morgenthaler's new The Bar Book.
His version of the drink is based on the Midwestern style, which blends the unholy trinity with vanilla ice cream. But Morgenthaler takes what would in most other contexts be a painfully sweet and unsightly drink and makes it good. Really, first-sip-makes-you-laugh-it's-so-good, good.
To tame the inherent richness and sweetness of a cocktail made with sugary liqueurs and ice cream, he brings in a teaspoon of Fernet Branca, a bitter herbal digestif so powerful that bartenders and other industry folk have long seen liking it as a rite of passage (you're in!).
Then he mutes the Fernet with a little sea salt. The balance of crushed ice is important too, to keep the shake thick and frothy, but not heavy. The original Grasshopper was a struggle to get three sips deep; this one will be gone before you know it.
It's just what you want on a hot night: creamy, sweet, cooling, bitter, and salty -- all keeping one another in check -- instead of strictly creamy and sweet.
Morgenthaler says the artificially green crème de menthe is essential. As he wrote in Playboy, "Wanting to step away from the brown, bitter, and stirred drinks so prevalent on today's cocktail menus, my team and I started looking into drinks that you might consider -- wait for it -- fun."
1 1/2 ounces green crème de menthe
1 1/2 ounces white crème de cacao
1 ounce half-and-half
1 teaspoon Fernet Branca
Pinch of sea salt
4 ounces (1/2 cup) vanilla ice cream
8 ounces (1 cup) crushed ice, prepared with a Lewis bag and mallet, a tea towel and rolling pin, or a food processor
Mint sprig for garnish
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].Thanks to Food52er hardlikearmour for this one!
Photos by James Ransom