Long Reads

Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Grasshopper Shake

August 13, 2014

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A minty, creamy, boozy milkshake grows up -- and we get the perfect summer drink.

Grasshopper Shake

I'd love to meet the person whose standard drink order is a Grasshopper.

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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.

Grasshopper Shake

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.

Grasshopper Shake  

Grasshopper Shake

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.

Grasshopper Shake  Grasshopper Shake

Grasshopper Shake

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."

Grasshopper Shake

Let's work on Brandy Alexanders next.

Grasshopper Shake

Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Grasshopper Shake

Adapted slightly from Pepe Le Moko and Portland Monthly Magazine

Serves 1

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

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

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

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Patricia Hotalen
    Patricia Hotalen
  • Marian Bull
    Marian Bull
  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler
    Jeffrey Morgenthaler
  • Kate Nolan
    Kate Nolan
  • hardlikearmour
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Patricia H. May 22, 2017
My standard drink order is a grasshopper. Hard to get, even at a well stocked bar. Bar tenders only fix the easy drinks now. I've perfected them.
Marian B. August 14, 2014
Can I make a big batch of these for St. Patrick's day? I can? Great!
Kristen M. August 14, 2014
Yes! Alt name: Shamrock Shake.
Jeffrey M. August 13, 2014
The photographs in this post are so pretty it's even making me crave one.
Kristen M. August 14, 2014
Green crème de menthe was what our photo shoots have been missing!
Kate N. August 13, 2014
My aunt just gifted me the cocktail set that she and her cousins used to drink Brandy Alexanders out of, so... get on that? Though this should do in the mean time!
Kristen M. August 14, 2014
I would love to see a picture of those. Did they drink anything else out of the set, or strictly Brandy Alexanders?
hardlikearmour August 13, 2014
Nice! Love this cocktail - best adult milkshake around.
Kristen M. August 14, 2014
Thank you for bringing it to my attention -- I'm a convert.
sfielding August 13, 2014
So excited to try this. I grew up in the Midwest and my parents would take me to a coffee shop as a kid that had non-alcoholic grasshoppers. I've been missing them for years.
Kristen M. August 14, 2014
I was a grasshopper pie freak growing up myself. Hope you like this one!
Posie (. August 13, 2014
Kristen you had me at "as one writes in Playboy..." -- but this looks so good I want (need?) it for breakfast. I've had a bottle of creme de menthe gathering dust on my bar and now I know what to do with it!
Kristen M. August 13, 2014
Thanks Posie -- they tend to do that, don't they? More Grasshoppers!