In a corner of my kitchen there is a crinkled drink recipe that looks like it was shoved into a wallet during the Bush administration. It is covered with blurred blue inkblots, a casualty of errant droplets from cocktail shaking. The instructions have been asterisked and annotated. In truth it has only existed a couple of months, though its worth could easily expand to cover decades of presidential destruction. The paper is already well worn.
Its inspiration came from Blossom Bar, one of my favorite Boston-area restaurants. I have wanted to go to its sister location, The Baldwin Bar, in Woburn. Mostly because they sell a large drink served in a giant smoking swan.
But The Baldwin exists outside the bounds of public transportation. I feel very strongly that no one should drink and then drive—and also believe no one should have to forgo the pleasure of consuming aperol from a communal copper swan vessel—so I have not yet determined how to make that dream a reality.
No matter: Blossom bar to the rescue. The restaurant is a magical place where Sichuan food and thoughtful cocktails come to vacation. The decor is awash in sea foam green, wood paneling, and stone. Everything is both intensely pleasurable and fun.
Though it does not come in waterfowl glassware, they have a drink called Angie Valencia, which features both aperol and aguardiente—a Columbian liquor that I have previously drunk only once. The slightly sweet licorice-tasting spirit is colloquially called firewater and often taken as a shot. So I obliged and behaved like a native.
This aguardiente was a little more mild-mannered, served as a tiki with the inclusion of papaya and kaffir. It was very good but still gone in 60 seconds. Since it quickly became apparent slamming thirteen dollar-drinks would not be a sustainable habit, Brett agreed to try and replicate it at home. We tested many versions and ended with a cocktail that contained a similar herbal, slight anise flavor with a tropical backbone.
Our drink does not require the creation of specialty syrups, nor the procurement of produce that cannot be commonly found in grocery stores across the country. Though I am someone who purposely singles out black jellybeans, I am confident even the anise-haters that walk among us will welcome this cocktail. We used Herbsaint, which is higher in alcohol than aguardiente, but any variety of similarly flavored spirits should work.
To make it you will need two fistfuls of ice and something to smash it with, so the cubes break into classic tiki-sized shards. Then shake together a variety of liquors you might not currently keep around, but will soon require on a regular basis. Garnish with a small bouquet of mint—Brett recommends thwapping it on the table to release its fragrant oils.
Naming a cocktail is nearly the best part about making one. It turns out Angie Valencia was a Colombian lingerie model and infamous drug smuggler. Our namesake is similarly paradoxical and a bit of a long story. Suffice to say it involves dressing up a pink metallic swan to look like our current president, complete with his classic orange hair and scotch-taped red tie. The rest, well, speaks for itself.
It is a peach-hued drink that tastes of spring. Like the season, it won’t last long. No problem. Just go ahead and pour yourself another. Unlike the president, it is quite palatable.
The Don Swan
- ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
- ¾ ounce orgeat
- ½ ounce Montenegro amaro
- ½ ounce rum (see note)
- 1¼ ounces aperol
- 2¼ teaspoons anise-flavored liquor (e.g. Herbsaint or Pernod)
- Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Place 6 or 7 ice cubes in a plastic freezer bag and bang with a rolling pin to crush them to no bigger than marble-sized pieces. Pour into a 12-ounce glass and place into the freezer to chill.
Combine all ingredients, except the mint, in a cocktail shaker with 2 additional ice cubes. Shake about 10 seconds. Pour into the chilled glass.
Garnish with a bunch of mint leaves wedged into the side of the glass.
Makes 1 cocktail
- Plantation pineapple rum is fabulous here. Mostly, you’ll want to use a decent rum—opt for one that has been aged in oak for a richer caramel flavor.
- If you can find aguardiente, I am sure it can be substituted for the other anise-flavored liquors though it will be less potent.