The Christmas food surge is subsiding leaving in its wake the jetsam of overstuffed people and leftover food. The idea of breaking out of the traditional herbal/fruit flavours that dominate cocktails is an intriguing one, but there may well be a reason that these flavours dominate; they work and other more savoury flavours are hard to balance and/or make pleasant. An unsuccessful evening many years ago with a bottle of gin, a jar of marmite and the quest to make a Marmitini still jars in the memory…
So anyway back to Christmas. In the fridge there is a hunk of ham waiting to be put into the traditional turkey and ham pie which I will be working on tomorrow. And sat next to it is a bowl of the slightly wobbly, intensely sweet, salty hammy cooking liquor. The ham was cooked in what I believe is a traditional Southern US style. The ham skin was sliced off, the fat was scored and studded with cloves and was then put into the pot. An onion sliced in two went in and then two litres of coca cola. The whole thing was brought to a simmer and cooked for about two hours.
Now I am not a fan of coca cola. And certainly not in cocktails. Well OK a Cuba Libre is a fine drink, but other than that coca cola is not really a bloodandsand kinda thing. However The end result was not only an amazing piece of ham but also a wonderfully sweet but savoury sauce essentially made from reduced coke and ham fat.
There had to be a way to not only eat this but also drink it surely?
So attempt number one. The Old Fashioned Porker.
A bar spoon of the cokepig sauce went into the mixing glass with a liberal dash of Bokers given it has a big clove flavour profile. Then 25ml of bourbon went in. Not a recognised brand I have to admit. The Christmas season can do desperate things to people and I am no exception. In went the remnants of a bottle of Sainsburys Kentucky Bourbon (for any non-UK punters that means supermarket own brand bourbon). I know. The shame. Anyhow an ice cube followed plus some liberal stirring. A second 25ml (the end of the bottle: let it never be mentioned again) of bourbon and a second ice cube and more stirring. Then for a tougher backbone to the drink 25ml of Thomas H Handy Sazerac straight rye whiskey plus another ice cube. (This I am confident will be the one and only time in history that this particular bourbon and rye will have shared a mixing glass). More stirring. Three more ice cube and a final stir to properly chill and then out into the waiting glass. Now for a garnish. Well there was no choice really was there.
The end result. Blimey. Not like anything I have had before. Sweet, but with a clear alcoholic backbone. So far so Old Skool cocktail normal. But distinctly savoury as well. Definitely salty but also a strong umami, meaty profile. Not at all unpleasant. The balance between sweet, salty and savoury actually very good. Just very very different. I would say unexpected, but that wouldn’t be true. I had just stuck whiskey and ham broth together after all. What else was I expecting?
On to attempt number two. The first go played fully to the meat flavour. A punchy spirit backbone and no hiding for the salty ham and sweet cola syrup. Perhaps now as a contrast to try something a little fresher. Some fruit flavour to soften and lift the saltiness. Some citrus to cut into the salt And what is the classic fruit combination with cooked ham. Yes that’s right. The Hawaiian Daiquiri was born.
Bastardising Mr Difford’s exacting 10:3:2 formula into the shaker went a big hunk of fresh pineapple and a barspoon of cokepig (my approximation of ’2′) which was sturdily muddled. Then 3/4 of a shot of lime juice and 2 and 1/2 shots of Chairman’s Reserve St Lucian rum. Flying in the face of Daiquiri tradition a small drop of Angostura went in only because Angostura and Demerara sugar on pineapple under the grill is a fantastic desert. Loaded up with ice, shaken hard and then double strained into a coupette.
Now while attempt number one was an attempt to push the boundaries and certainly created a novel taste experience it wasn’t exactly a session drink. This however was really quite nice. Just about recognisably a daiquiri, but with a clearly salty, hammy pineapple base. Like a Hawaiian pizza (not that that is a regular order mind you. More an anchovy and olive man myself… Hang on is there a martini variant in there?). And the lime cut through the meatiness somewhat making it more recognisably a cocktail.
Mrs G gave an alternate view (claggy, hammy, disgusting, discrediting the good reputation of The Hide etc), but there you go.
These aren’t going to be making the menu any time soon but I’m a firm believer that these experiments are a worthy endeavour!