The dessert cocktail occupies that heady (and potentially lucrative) realm between guilt and pleasure – these have been delighting drinkers for centuries. Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller explore the world of sweet and indulgent after-dinner drinks
Go ahead. Start snickering. Once you’ve finished, get serious and consider once again the dessert family of mixed drinks.
Modern Ways with Traditional Scottish Recipes by Rosalie Gow and Maureen Mooney, 1981
‘First, prepare an oatmeal brose. Toast 1/4 lb (125g – 1 cup) or so of oatmeal until lightly browned and crisped, in the oven, then mix to a thick paste with cold water. Let stand completely cold. Press the oatmeal now through a fine, wire sieve – the liquid which drops through is the oatmeal “brose” used in the recipe [...].
‘Sweeten the oatmeal brose with heather honey (clear), using about 1 dessertspoonful (2 x 5ml spoons) of honey to each wineglassful of brose. Stir thoroughly and pour into an empty whisky bottle. Full up with whisky (scotch, need I say) and shake well before serving.’
Why would you ignore the opportunity to get paying customers to come to your bar for a post-prandial liquid treat? Do the math. A Grasshopper delivers a better profit margin than a dish of profiteroles does. And a Grasshopper serves up 164 calories, whilst those same profiteroles dole out a total of 378 calories!
Think how far back these simple liquid treats have enchanted rulers and rogues. Now acquaint yourself with a lovely drink favoured by Queen Victoria. Legend has it that, in 1475, the Earl of Atholl offered Atholl Brose (Atholl’s broth) to the Lord of the Isles Iain Macdonald to delay his departure and thus give King James III’s men an opportunity to capture the rebellious noble.
Atholl Brose evolved into two distinctly different versions. One is a hefty egg and cream pudding. The other is a delectably toasty, spicy whisky beverage that is sweetened to taste with a touch of honey. This oat-infused whisky recipe ages well in a glass bottle and begs for customisation: less honey, more cream, a grating of nutmeg.
And from one whisky potion to the next… We now move on to a variation on the creamy gin classic recorded by Hugo R Ensslin in his 1915 volume Recipes for Mixed Drinks. A Scotch Alexander takes advantage of the spicy qualities of blended scotch whisky and enhances it with two natural partners – crème de cacao and cream. Topped with a grating of nutmeg, this cocktail is a grown-up alternative to the Bourbon Milk Punch that’s worthy of classic dessert drink status.
Garnish: Sprinkle of nutmeg
Method: Combine scotch, white crème de cacao and cream in a mixing glass. Add some ice and shake briskly. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with a sprinkle of nutmeg.
30ml blended scotch
30ml white crème de cacao
30ml single cream
Nutmeg for sprinkling
The Golden Cadillac, White Russian, Brandy Alexander – these are all examples of forgotten after-dinner drinks that were not considered to be girly drinks, but were rather a delightful finish to a meal, and have also made recent appearances on craft cocktail menus the world over. Why? Because, regardless of gender, a guilty pleasure brings a smile to the face and a twinkle to the eye.
The green giant
The Grasshopper is a concoction that topped the charts during the 1950s and 1960s. Born at New Orleans’ second oldest eatery, Tujague’s Restaurant, barman Philibert Guichet Jr was responsible for crafting this drink.
One particular legend has it that Guichet won a 1928 cocktail competition in New York with this creation. Others say that the competition occurred in 1919, just before the enactment of Prohibition, which is a more plausible scenario.
Garnish: Piece of dark chocolate
Method: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Add some ice and shake briskly. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve with a piece of dark chocolate.
30ml green crème de menthe
30ml white crème de cacao
30ml single cream
This is another drink that has evolved from a shaken drink served on the rocks to a shaken cocktail now offered straight up.
The reason it took 30 or 40 years for the Grasshopper to trend was that white crème de cacao didn’t make an appearance on the back bar until after the Second World War, and so the colour of the original Grasshopper would have been a lot muddier than the neon green treat we now know.
Today, the original equal-parts formula has been variously updated to taste, leaning more toward the cream and using much higher quality liqueurs. A piece of dark chocolate has also been spotted as a side nibble, an enhancement to this luxurious marriage.
Start the day with Mi Amante
Summer. Ice cream. Gin. Yes, we profess to being extremely fond of a drink Harry Craddock made famous during the 1920s, the White Cargo. The refreshing blend of gin and the best vanilla ice cream, shaken without ice and thinned with a splash of white wine is delectable with a grating of nutmeg. A drink discovered by American journalist Charles H Baker Jr during his quest for cocktail perfection at the height of American Prohibition lends itself to sinful excess for anyone who loves coffee. The Mi Amante was uncovered in Buenos Aires, where a young bon vivant mixed up 60ml of finest quality gin and 240ml coffee ice cream (we prefer espresso gelato). Served in large champagne coupes, this summer treat deserves a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa.