If you haven't already noticed, it's quite rare that I'm satisfied (at least completely) with a good thing. That is, if I enjoy something I eat or drink, like many of you readers I just love to mess with the flavors & combinations thereof - add something here, subtract something there.
Now, Victor Bergeron once said, "Bartending is a bunch of hokum; you add an ingredient here, change a quantity there and you've got a new drink", and this is quite the valid explanation of (part of) what we do when experimenting as mixologists. By taking a proven classic libation & changing proportions or flavors, while preserving the delicate balance of flavors between the ingredients, we can create new drinks, which are often radically different in character than the originals they're based around.
Sticking with this notion, as well as combining some recent posts of mine on flavor elements like flora & orgeat in cocktails, I'd like to stay with my man 'Vic for a moment longer. The Trader, among other exotica exponents, was rather fond of a large type of drink which was often prepared for many people to enjoy communally - not quite a punch, but always a libation which packed one. One such 'cocktail bowl' was the Scorpion - an infamous, mostly rum-based beverage named largely for the sting it possesses.
Though many recipes for exotica drinks like the Scorpion Bowl exist, having sampled several different recipes I feel the one Vic published in his 1946 Book of Food & Drink is among the best - a drink which, to quote him once more, "does not shilly-shally or mess around in getting you under way". This twenty-person recipe, for those who should like to try it unaltered, goes as follows:
1½ bottles white Puerto Rican Rum (Brugal is good here)
½ bottle white Wine (I like a Chenin Blanc here)
2 oz. Gin
2 oz. Brandy
16 oz. fresh Lemon juice
8 oz. fresh Orange juice
8 oz. Orgeat syrup
Mix ingredients thoroughly in a punch bowl & fill with cracked ice. Allow to stand for two hours & add more cracked ice. Garnish with two sprigs of fresh mint & a few gardenias.
A 'limit one' cocktail to be sure, but quite the masterful bit of chemistry: for a beverage with about 41 ounces of spirit (& another 12 ounces of Wine), one would scarcely notice - until you stand up that is. So what's wrong with the recipe as printed? Absolutely nothing. But, as I said, I couldn't resist making some changes to the ingredients - beginning with the primary modifier/sweetener.
In a previous article I waxed poetic about different regional variations on the stuff, and in my most recent I did the same on using flowers as a flavor element. Now, a key ingredient to making normal orgeat is the addition of an aromatic Orange Flower water (occasionally Rosewater) - but what about differently-flavored extracts? Turns out, I was recently given a bottle of Jasmine water; add this to the discovery of a lonely Vanilla bean in my spice rack & hey, presto - yet another Orgeat variation (©):
1 Cup: blanched Almonds
1¾ Cups: white Sugar
1½ Cups: Water
½ Tablespoon: Jasmine water
1" piece: whole Madagascar Vanilla bean
1¼ oz. Alcolado Pisco (BarSol)
1. Soak the almonds in water for about 20 minutes. Drain & discard this water then grind the almonds fine in a food processor. Combine the almonds and the water in a clean bowl and allow to sit for two hours. Strain the mixture through a damp piece of cheesecloth, pressing to remove the liquid. Add the almonds back into the strained mixture & repeat the process two more times to extract all the almond oils.
2. Discard the almonds after the third pressing & combine the sugar and liquid in a non-reactive saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds from the inside. Add the whole thing to the pan & simmer on medium for fifteen minutes, stirring to incorporate the sugar, then remove from the heat.
3. Allow to cool for five minutes before whisking in the Jasmine water. When completely cool, add the Pisco (which is both a preservative & a slight aromatic element in its own right), strain out the vanilla bean husk & bottle.
Enjoy it most anywhere you would normal Orgeat (it makes a wicked Mai-Tai or Japanese cocktail), or with eight friends in a (©):
13 oz. white Rum (Brugal)
4 oz. Rhum Agricole Blanc
6 oz. white Port
1½ oz. Gin (Bombay Sapphire)
1½ oz. Pisco (BarSol Alcolado)
8 oz. fresh Lemon juice
4 oz. fresh Orange juice
1 oz. fresh Lime juice
5 oz. Vanilla-Jasmine Orgeat
Combine ingredients in a punch bowl & fill with cracked ice. Allow to stand for about twenty minutes under refrigeration & top with fresh cracked ice. Garnish with edible flowers & serve with long straws. Sip.
These ingredients were chosen to highlight & enhance the aromatic qualities of the drink: the Port provides a touch more sweetness - held in check by the addition of Lime. Likewise the R(h)um, Gin & Brandy selections play off the subtleties of the Jasmine with their own interesting notes of spice & aroma. The name, incidentally, is that of a scorpion-shaped palace in Hyderabad, India - the region from whence my Jasmine water came.
On a parting note - it bears mentioning that if you'd rather not wait the full 20 minutes in preparing a drink like this one, the ingredients may be shaken with ice prior to combining them over ice, which will reduce your proper-dilution wait-time to more or less nil. Or you could do what I did - prepare it as directed, then nip out to your local quality bar (like Catherine Lombardi's, for any of you NJ-area folks) for a fantastic drink or two. Just make certain to mind the tail on your gleeful return...
Cheers & Enjoy!