There 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
Cute 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