April 21, 2009

If someone wants a drink that tastes like candy, serve them this!

Growing up, I remember my grandparents had some unusual varieties of candy. Mercifully, I never had circus peanuts inflicted upon me, but I did have spice drops. Remember those? Little dome shaped, sugar encrusted pieces of gummy candy? And no matter what the color, they all tasted the same? It wasn't a bad flavor, but it was distinctive. I'd forgotten all about those until I sampled tonight's drink...a drink that contains a spirit I've never had before; Pernod.

I'll confess, I looked for a miniature bottle of Pernod because I knew that it was an anisette, a sort of licorice-on-crack flavored liquid, and to be honest, black licorice is not one of my favorite foods. Sadly, there were no mini bottles to be found (frankly, I'm not sure if they even exist), so I figured I'd just bite the bullet, stop worrying and learn to love Pernod. Well my worrying proved unfounded, because while the nose of Pernod is full of licorice, the flavor is not nearly as monotone as that. And tonight's drink, cheerfully called "William Seabrook's Asylum," makes for quite the unusual, but intriguing, cocktail.

Pernod, like it's big brother absinthe, and cousin ouzo, is a liquor that louches, or clouds up when it's introduced to water. It makes for some pretty effects, especially in the Asylum. You'll notice on looking at the ingredients, that, despite containing grenadine, the beverage is very very yellow. That's solely due to my grenadine being homemade and pretty pale in color. If you use commercial (and if you do, PLEASE go with a brand like Stirrings over Rose's), or if you make your own using pomegranate juice, your drink will end up more orange than yellow. My grenadine was made by boiling down pomegranate pips, and is therefore not quite as colorful.
William Seabrook's Asylum

Pour slowly, and in this order, into an Old-Fashioned glass:

1/2 teaspoon grenadine
1 1/2 ounces Pernod
1 1/2 ounces London dry gin (though a Jenever-style would be interesting, too)

Add 2 to 3 ice cubes, letting them melt a tiny bit, and then swizzle to watch the clouds form.
I'd be lying if I said this tastes like anything besides a spice drop, but that's not a bad thing at all...it's not cloyingly sweet, and as David Wondrich points out in "Esquire Drinks," "[b]etween the Pernod and the gin, you've got the extracts of a few dozen assorted roots and herbs, not a few of which must have some serious juju going for them...[it] seems to impart a trancelike, unblinking calm tat is difficult to otherwise achieve." I don't know about "trancelike" but after a pair of these, I was feeling pretty damn mellow. For an introduction to Pernod, this drink made it pretty painless. Next stop, absinthe, maybe?
William Seabrook's Asylum

Addendum: You've probably noticed that in a lot of my photos, I've got the drinks posing with books. That's not by accident. I'm a voracious reader, and I will happily and most emphatically recommend any of the books you see in the photos. I try to match them based on a sort of emotional connection I feel each drink could make with them, but sometimes I just feel like singling out a book, you know?


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