Grasshoppers are the single-most glamorous cocktail known to man.
Let me rephrase that: Grasshoppers are the single-most glamorous cocktail known to 10-year-old suburban girls who have been banished to the family room to watch Love Boat during their parents' dinner parties in the early 1980s. While Isaac, the bartender, blended poolside mai tais and Bahama Mamas for a rotating cast of amorous passengers, my sister and I pressed our ears against the accordion kitchen door, listening for a spike in volume from the dining room beyond. Our mission: to sneak in and swipe a spoonful of the mint chocolate chip ice cream softening on the counter before the grown-ups hogged it all for their highfalutin after-dinner cocktails that we were never allowed to taste. (Though we tried . . . how we tried.)
I've no idea where my recessive liquor-snob gene came from or even my taste for alcohol. I don't think my mother has let more than a Genny Cream Ale pass her lips in a single sitting, and though my dad appreciates a postprandial sambuca from time to time, no one would accuse him of being a boozehound. But after hitting a decent drinking age, I somehow got all pinky-up about liquor. And as a result, I missed out on a hell of a lot of fun.
While my peers were happily slugging back Fuzzy Navels, Long Island Iced Teas and all manner of shots with sexually creepy names, I was getting pedantic about ice clarity and gin botanicals. I turned my nose up at drinks that weren't pre-Prohibition pedigreed and was generally an insufferable little twit who wouldn't be caught dead ordering a fern bar drink in public, and that's what I understood Grasshoppers to be.
But, God, did I want one. I'd never actually managed to sneak so much as a sip back in the dinner party days, and the Grasshopper loomed large to me. I mean, what's not to love? While the blended version my parents deployed is a Midwestern supper club staple, the non-ice cream-bolstered version is a meld of equal parts green crème de menthe (that's your mint), crème de cacao (chocolate) and cream (because, why not?), shaken with ice and decanted into a glass that more often than not boasts a cocoa-dusted rim (see the recipe). To deny that flavor combo is to turn your nose up at Girl Scout Thin Mints, America and your own capacity for pleasure. For a long time, I did.
But a lady can't live on snottery and obscure single malts alone—not in any enjoyable way. To that end, I've loosened up on a lot of things in my life, aided in part by repeated trips to New Orleans, the epicenter of the universe's fun and probably, not coincidentally, the purported birthplace of the Grasshopper nearly a century ago. At dinner in the French Quarter a few weeks back, I saw a fellow patron giddily knocking them back, one after another, and the desire hopped back to the fore. Soon after, I shook up my first real Grasshopper, and about 30 minutes after that, I shook up my second, plus another for my husband. Amazingly, after all that time, it actually lived up to my childhood fantasies—I only wish it hadn't taken so long for me to make the leap.
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