Turns out, the Grasshopper is much more than the subject of a number of great bar jokes. It’s an eye-catching cocktail with an impressive history.
Like a deconstructed box of Junior Mints for adults, the cocktail blends creme de menthe, creme de cacao, and cream. For a mixed drink, the alcohol content is relatively low and because of the sweet factor, it tends to function almost like a milkshake (try it with some ice cream if you’d like, it’s pretty tasty).
Few drinks on the planet offer such color in the glass. The Grasshopper is a rich green with a matte finish, like a vintage Bianchi bicycle. Like a lot of great cocktails, its origins go back to the early 20th century in New Orleans. There, at the legendary Tujague’s in 1918, it was whipped together by Philip Guichet as part of an entry into a cocktail competition. It took second place and has been a fixture at the 164-year-old bar and restaurant ever since.
Why the Grasshopper has gone in and out of fashion over the years is up for debate. Its signature color is off-putting for some, perhaps symbolizing something synthetic and not of this planet. Some simply can’t do mint. For others, it’s just too dessert-y. Maybe the fact that it’s typically served up is too much for some to handle.
A good Grasshopper, though, can do wonders. In its natural habitat of New Orleans, where the cuisine can be spicy and the weather stuffy, the cocktail can take the sting out of things. It’s a post-meal breath freshener of a drink that’s just fun to have in your custody. It’s a humidity-dousing, mint-charged number built for shadowing a big portion of jambalaya or a bucket of crawfish. And unlike a lot of other flamboyantly colored drinks, the Grasshopper at least makes some sense.
It owes its hue to creme de menthe, a French concoction that’s based on an old recipe involving Corsican mint leaves and dried peppermint, steeped in grain alcohol. It’s then filtered and hit with sugar. Not a lot of cocktails depend heavily on the stuff, but it is paramount in riffs like the Stinger or the South African Springbokkie.
The Grasshopper is also the cocktail of choice for one of the greatest bar jokes of all time. It’s simple and dry, not at all like the cocktail itself. You know the drill: A Grasshopper walks into a bar and parks itself on a stool. The bartender says, “Hey, we’ve got a drink named after you.” The Grasshopper looks up, a bit surprised. “You’ve got a drink named Steve?”
Now that seemingly antiquated things like sherry, White Zin, and hot dishes are back, it only makes sense that the Grasshopper gets a fair shot. Think of it as the minty cousin of the White Russian, the Lebowski-approved classic sweet cocktail. With St. Patrick’s Day not all too far away, keep the Grasshopper in your holster as you look for something besides cheap beer with food coloring to bring to the table.
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