One of the hallmarks of the recent cocktail renaissance is taking once-popular drinks that have fallen into disrepair over the years and applying culinary sensibilities and techniques to bear, making us understand why they were popular in the first place.
The most famous such resurrections have brought drinks like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan back to mainstream relevance, and we can now add the Grasshopper to that list.
What was once a legitimate classic, invented at Tujague's in New Orleans just before Prohibition, was ruined through laziness and apathy until it became known as a sissified, girly, ice-cream drink.
The original at Tujague's was a blend of brandy, Creme de Cacao and Creme de Menthe, shaken with a bit of heavy cream for body and strained into a cocktail glass.
Over the years, it somehow morphed into a disgusting, barely-boozy abomination, with just the Creme de Cacao and Creme de Menthe blended with either milk or vanilla ice cream, made even more disgusting by the use of cheap, low-quality liqueurs. It was reviled by cocktail snobs, myself included.
When Cinclare Southern Bistro in Thibodaux recently made the Grasshopper its featured drink of the week, I decided to give it a chance. I was glad I did.
Done right, the Grasshopper is a fine after-dinner drink, not too creamy, sweet but not cloying, and with a depth of flavor that far surpassed the dark-ages version.
The main improvement was using high-quality ingredients, starting with Marie Brizzard Creme de Cacao and Creme de Menthe. The subtle warmth and slight bite of Courvoisier Cognac turned it into a proper cocktail, just a touch of heavy cream made it frothy but not creamy and a grating of fresh nutmeg completed it nicely.
Whereas the crappy version tasted like a York Peppermint Patty left open in the freezer too long, this is a well balanced sipper, with the chocolate and mint bringing out the best in each other. It's more minty than chocolatey, but the good Creme de Menthe gave it a brightness that shows why the cheap stuff has a deserved reputation as akin to drinking Ny-Quil.
The finish of nutmeg adds quite a bit to the flavor as well. Once a common cocktail garnish that has lately been confined to eggnog, the spice brings yet another layer of flavor to the drink.
As delicious as it is, a Grasshopper is not one to partake multiple times in one sitting, making it a perfect dessert drink, a classic rescued from the scrap-heap.
Staff Writer Scott Yoshonis can be reached at 850-1148 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Foster_Cajun.