Living on an island takes some getting used to. The islands move at their own plodding gait, with no real destination in mind, it’s a slow, easy trail full of smiles and breaks in the shade. It’s just too damn hot and beautiful out to move any faster. There is a calm simplicity to the way people do things down here. Why climb the tree for the coconut when the coconut is just gonna fall to your feet anyway? Simple living, island style.
The cocktail awakening that has been gaining momentum over the past decade has brought a delectable amount of Caribbean simplicity to drink menus across the US. For the most part the undemanding recipes of the Caribbean, like a Barbados Swizzle or Hemmingway Daiquiri, have helped to caution a new generation of bartender on the dangers of over thinking. Out on the fringe of our noble profession though, there lurks a whole section of cocktailia fraught with overindulgence, a sect that just can’t say “NO” to an extra gimmicky ingredient or two. While I’m sure there can be some merit to a “vaduvan scented sea salt rim” on my Daiquiri, I sure do like the original just the way it is.
While it’s true that the boys and girls working behind the stick these days have a lot more to play with behind the bar than the previous keepers of the shaker, it’s the creativity of making something beautiful out of little that really makes a drink sing. For example, a good friend of mine was in Seattle last summer at a pretty little outdoor café. The drink list was cloying and playful, with homemade tinctures and bitters used liberally throughout. (quick side note. I love using homemade bitters and tinctures… but everything in moderation, my friends)
My friend sent a picture of a drink she was enjoying called the “Empress” that had an amazing 9 different ingredients to fill a 5oz cocktail coupe. 9 ingredients for one drink! I asked her what it tasted like and if she could pick up the traces of “lavender tincture” or “essence of spring” as the menu suggested. “No” she replied, “but it does taste like a sweet, rum & grapefruit” Well, let’s take that idea and tone it down a notch (actually 6 notches) and see what we can accomplish with less…
The White Empress
Combine over ice: 2oz light Cruzan Rum,
1oz St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
1 1/2oz fresh squeezed ruby grapefruit juice
Shake hard in a cobbler shaker for thirty seconds and strain into a cocktail coupe.
This has quickly become the best selling cocktail on my spring drink menu. The rum plays off so well with the grapefruit juice, providing a light bitterness that tickles the roof of your mouth, while the sweetness of the St. Germain just balances the lingering, fresh flavor of the elderflower (maybe this was the mystifying essence of spring they were referring to?)
Drink creation can be artistic, magical and whimsical as long as we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and remember that the whole point is to enjoy it! (Preferably with an ingredient list you can read before your ice melts)