I’ve come up with a few original drinks, but I will probably not debut one without a proper name again. Giving up the naming rights to my new drink to a group of drunken people generated some, let’s say “crass” suggestions. Maybe some background is in order…
I have a friend who volunteers with the organization One Brick. The group (with branches across the county including one here in Chicago) provides help to non-profit organizations in various forms (people, time, money, organizational infrastructure, etc.), but it also has a significant social component (bar hopping, cavorting, etc.). Knowing I’m an avid mixologist, she asked me to construct a cocktail for the group with one criterion in mind, that it be orange, the official color of the organization. When I think orange colored drinks, I of course think orange juice, but she instead planted a different seed, suggesting that the drink use cantaloupe. Hmmm,… an interesting and challenging idea.
In trying to think of flavors to go with cantaloupe, cucumber sprang to mind, so my first attempt was a cucumber gin-based cocktail. That ended up miserable with the flavors conflicting instead of balancing. Dropping the cucumber and going with straight gin didn’t go well, either, so, scratching my head a bit, I decided to instead try a riff on a classic instead of starting from scratch. The focus I had for a cantaloupe drink – light, refreshing, summery – led me to look at the daiquiri.
If you’ve forgotten (or if you’ve only experienced the chain restaurant frozen molestations), a daiquiri is light rum, lime juice and simple syrup. Being a classic sour it lends itself well to experimentation. A straight swap of cantaloupe for lime would not do, though; you need the sour tartness to be balanced with the sweetness. But mixing cantaloupe with lime didn’t sound quite right, either. After some playing, I decided on what I felt was a great compromise: swap the lime for more mellow lemon and introduce the cantaloupe not through straight juice, but as a substitute for the water in the simple syrup!
A little of adjustment of proportions and the addition of fresh herbs (vis a vis basil) and, viola!
- 1 1/2 oz light rum
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 2/3 oz cantaloupe simple syrup
To make the simple syrup, muddle or blend fresh cantaloupe and strain the juice into a bottle. Add 1.5x as much sugar and shake until dissolved.
In the mixing tin, add one basil leaf (ripped into pieces and slapped to release flavor) and top with the liquid ingredients. Shake with ice and double strain (with a wire mesh) into a cocktail glass (if you’d like it served up) or into an ice-filled rocks glass (served down).
Garnish with some melon and fresh basil.
The drink itself comes out a light yellow to pale orange color, but the cantaloupe garnish gives the illusion of a darker orange tint to the drink. Initially the drink presents its lemon flavor, but the cantaloupe and basil will come out slowly after the initial wave subsides. If you can work in a basil sprig as garnish, bonus points! The drinker will then have a strong whiff of basil with each sip, adding subtly to the herb’s effect. All told, things comes together to make the drink light and refreshing.
So that’s the drink. That’s the easy part. Next comes the naming.
When I debuted this drink for my friend at a small gathering, the group became totally enamored with one part of this drink making, the part where I slap the basil. This is better technique then muddling it (which tends to crush it and bring out the bitter chlorophyll instead of the flavorful oils and aromas) and I’ve done it for so long that it’s second nature. But they thought it turned the whole drink making experience into a spectacle and began to refer to it as “spanking the basil.” Now you can imagine what other raunchy things might come out of a crowd once you start talking like that and I lost hope of ever getting a respectable name from them. So, alas, this one became the Basil Spank.
Next time I’ll decide on the name before I pour the first shot.