The Bunny Hug

Mixology Monday: PastisThere was an … incident… in my early drinking years involving Egyptian beer and a bottle of arak (this arak, which is akin to ouzo, not Batavia arak, which is a different liquor entirely). It was formative. I have since avoided anise, licorice, and fennel scrupulously, eschewing even the occasional Red Vine in a darkened theater. An otherwise proud and broadminded omnivore, anise and related flavors have been my Achilles heel. Until relatively recently.

It was a Sazerac, mixed a year ago this week, which whispered suggestively that a wash of Herbsaint was nothing to be feared. Somewhat later, a Monkey Gland intimated that one might actually mix with Pernod — albeit a mere 1/2 teaspoon — to very salutary ends. And indeed, in Tuxedos, Turfs, and Trilby No. Twos undocumented, I have splashed the requisite dash with no dire consequences. I’ve actually found my palate probing some of the latter, looking for the lick of licorice that the pastis should provide, and not finding it!

And so to the inaugural Mixology Monday. Paul was generously broad in his requirements, but where’s the joy in submitting a drink like the Tuxedo, in which the dash of pastis vanishes under the weight of maraschino and Regans’ bitters? No, in this I would be guided by the precepts of Chairman Kaga, who demands of his iron chefs that they capture the very essence of the mystery ingredient. In this, I would challenge the advice of the inestimable Harry Craddock. In this, I would embrace pastis, in a ratio not heretofore attempted. I would mix The Bunny Hug:

1/2 oz. Pastis
1/2 oz. Whiskey
1/2 oz. London Dry Gin
Stirred and strained into a cocktail glass

Sheet Music for The Bunny HugCute name, no? Conjures up certain Heffnerian visions which one wouldn’t normally associate with absinthe. As it happens, the drink was likely named for a slow-grind ragtime dance, both hugely popular and hugely scandalous in the 1910s. Cedar Rapids has only recently legalized the Bunny Hug, after banning it in 1913. In Oregon, that same year, a man was stabbed 11 times for attempting to prevent the Bunny Hug from being danced in his establisment.

I’d thought I was prepared, but the Bunny Hug has proven me wrong. Not to say I didn’t have fair warning: The Savoy Cocktail Book explicitly states that “This cocktail should immediately be poured down the sink before it is too late.” Of course, Craddock’s pronouncement hasn’t stopped the Bunny Hug from making appearances in successive cocktail guides down to this day, and neither will mine, but we may dislike it for different reasons.

What does a drink named for a forbidden flapper’s dance taste like? I’m going to have to fall back on Wilde, and say that for those who like that sort of thing, it’s probably the sort of thing that they’d like. That thing being pastis.

Looking at the recipe, I assumed that H.C. merely disliked the flavor of commingled gin, whiskey and pastis, but I was curious as to what that would taste of. Drinking the Bunny Hug proved to be a bafflingly inconclusive experience — it was just like sipping a glass of slightly watered-down Pernod. That ounce of bourbon and gin may as well have been vodka, in that they were completely subsumed by the Green Fairy’s thujoneless juggernaut of a substitute.

I’ve a suspicion that the less pastis-averse may discern something other than Pernod in their Bunny Hugs — possibly something quite nasty if Craddock was any judge — but I’m at a loss to do so. I can stomach pastis in volume these days, if not particularly enjoy it, but it overwhelms my taste buds. Given that I seem to be confined to using it in drips and dashes, I’ll be particularly interested to read others’ contributions on today’s theme. I could stand to find a few more ways to use less pastis more often.

Update: Mixology Monday #1 is a done-deal. 7 other posts on pastis await your attention

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12 Responses to “The Bunny Hug”

  1. Katarina says:

    Good man, keep on with the anise. I have pursued my own recovery along the same lines with other flavors and foodstuffs, much as suggested by Jeffrey Steingarten:

    The Omnivore: Learning to Eat Everything

    Step six, I find, is the most difficult.

    I wonder if (and doubt that) there are any film clips of the Bunny Hug floating around. The descriptions are all a little indistinct, as satisfying as viewing pornography through the wrong end of a telescope.

  2. Rick says:

    Here are a couple that are a bit less intense on the pastis but still allow its flavor to come through.

    The Astor Hotel Special

    Test Pilot

    * 1/2oz lime juice
    * 1/2oz falernum
    * 1/2oz triple sec
    * 1 dash Angostura bitters
    * 1 1/2 dashes Pernod
    * 3/4oz light Puerto Rican rum
    * 1 1/2oz dark Jamaican rum

    Directions:

    1. Blend with 1c crushed ice for 5 seconds.
    2. Pour into a double old-fashioned glass, and add crushed ice to fill.
    3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

  3. c says:

    Katarina: nice article, thanks. and yeah… damned step 6 :)

    Rick: Man, I am gobsmacked by the Test Pilot — it’s amazing that a dash and a half of Pernod manages to plow its way through all the other ingredients. Delicious, too. No Astor House Special for me today — I am barrenly eggless — but soon, soon.

  4. Phoney says:

    Hello,
    I’ve just tried Bunny Hug with absinthe (vom fass 72% — it’s not quite good, hence I drink it as ‘bunny’, but it is real absinthe anyway) and I liked it much.

    I wouldn’t recommend Grande Absente, since 1) it is not cheap, yet is rated as poor by absinthe connossieurs: see The Wormwood Society web page 2) Absente started off producing star anise liqueurs posed as “absinthe” and never got much far from that.

    You can buy or order way better ones for that price: you’d best see Wormwood Society’s reviews to choose one.

  5. Phoney says:

    Update:
    Now I’ve tried it with Ricard Pastis, too. It was just as awful as you’ve said: I couldn’t feel anything else than pastis. Go for Absinthe:)

  6. Taylor Timms says:

    I would not tempt to drink this, only if my life depended on it. Nice name for a drink, but no thank you. Entertaining article.

  7. Hmmm, pastis contains 40–45% alcohol by volume, now I’m really wondering if the term Bunny Hug fits the drink…I better try it to see it myself…it’s fairly easy recipe for a ‘cool’ drink noh!

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  8. Mark Fades says:

    This is a very complicated beverage The Bunny Hug…. But then I sense a more complicated meaning hidden LOL do you agree?

  9. Ron says:

    This is a fairly strong drink. It pails however to a drink a local bartender I used to know in a beach resort just North of Venice, Italy used to make 37 years ago. In Italy they had 2 liqueurs, Russian Fire, and Mother in Law’s Milk which were reputed to be 140 and 180 proof though they were sweet. his guy used to fill an 8 ounce water glass with these 2 liqueurs 50/50 and throw in a splash of creme-de-mint in for color. then he would throw in 1 ice cube and serve it.
    Guys used to drink them just to prove they could. Some of them could even walk after one.

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  11. Martin says:

    I haven’t drunk pernod since I was sick drinking too much of it when I was a teenager. Not sure I could stomach the Bunny Hug.