One of the greatest difficulties we face today is a growing gap in cultural literacy. In addition to basic history, which we hope against hope will be covered in the kids curriculum, there are also thousands of fandoms, movies and music that a person needs to have at least a working knowledge of, in order to be a clever productive-ish member of society. Nobody told me that helping to educate the next generation would be so daunting. Just today I found myself explaining concepts I barely understand myself as the lad asked “What is a hollaback girl?” That shit was bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s. So, in the spirit of seeming clever by staying one step ahead of the class, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Bananarac.
Obviously, this is a riff on the classic Sazerac, one of the oldest drinks in the cocktail lexicon. This variation was created by Natasha David of New York’s Nitecap, another acclaimed cocktail spot lost to Covid. Kind of like my list of drinks to make, I also have lists of geocaches to find, dishes to try, musicians to see live, venues to visit and bars to sidle up to. What can I say, I like to have things to look forward to and excuses to travel and I am a bit absent minded. Among the many things we have lost collectively over the last year, it is depressing to see just how many iconic bars have not survived. It breaks my heart on so many levels. So many people out of work, from the front of house folks to the guys delivering the ingredients. I know, just add these to the thousands of businesses lost and the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. There is more than enough grief to go around. Rather than focusing on what we’ve lost, let’s try to look forward.
Grab a rocks glass, pour in a little absinthe, I chose Corsair Red, and swirl it around to coat the inside of the glass. Set that aside and grab your mixing pitcher. Toss in 1 ounce of rye whiskey, I went with James E. Pepper 1776; 1 ounce of cognac, I chose Hennessy, 1/2 an ounce of Banane du Bresil, 1/2 a teaspoon of demerara syrup and two drops of 18-21 Prohibition Aromatic Bitters. Add ice and stir to the sounds of “No Day but Today” from Rent, because it is just as good as you remember. When well chilled, grab that rocks glass and pour out the absinthe, before adding 4-5 artisanal ice cubes, strain your drink over the top and garnish with an expressed lemon peel so long that it could only have been harvested with a serrated peeler, cause those are also a thing.
This is not what I expected. I had high hopes for this one, because bananas, but it is even better than I had imagined. It has a nice depth, an earthy base that the banana just sort of meanders through. It is present, but not obnoxious. This drink would be even better of made properly. The recipe actually calls for Armagnac, but I couldn’t justify buying a bottle for one drink and is Armagnac really better than cognac? While we are at it, is cognac really better than brandy? Aren’t we just talking about regional differences in the same spirit and personal choice? Who decided all this anyway? “Did they really think about it before they made the rules?” Don Henley asked, dejectedly, from the corner. The answer is yes, armagnac would be better, in this case, but I did the wrong thing, knowingly. I do that a lot in life, but I am working on it.
It’s a damned fine drink, but I was already predisposed to like it. The real kicker came when the wife refused to give it back, because, historically, this is not her kind of drink. She reluctantly let me have a second sip and then reminded me where the kitchen was, if I needed another and that she could use a refill soon, if I was already making one. So, it was a hit. I would not say that it is better than a Sazerac, because it is so different that I don’t think comparison is warranted. They are both excellent, but very different drinks. One thing is certain, this ain’t no hollaback drink, this is the real deal and it is bananas. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.