Wednesday, February 13, 2013

madame mustache

1 1/2 oz Aged Rhum Agricole (*)
1 oz Drambuie
1/2 oz Cynar
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Build in a rocks glass, give a quick stir (no ice), and garnish with a grapefruit twist.
(*) The drink was developed originally with aged cachaça, so feel free to substitute for a funkier drink.

The third drink I created for the Women of the Wild West event was by request. Matthew Schrage, who organized the whole Whiskey & Amari series, mentioned that it was his birthday that night, and he would like nothing more than a birthday Scaffa crafted for the event. Scaffas are a 19th century style of cocktail that are stirred, un-iced cocktails often as simple as a spirit, a liqueur, and a dash of bitters; some utilize water for dilution to make them more potable, while others utilize syrup or liqueur's sugar to balance the spirit's heat. As I thought about possible base liquors, I was drawn to sugar cane spirits which had been neglected in the first batch of recipes that Katie Emmerson and I had created for the menu. Looking back at the Scaffas I have had, Scott Holliday's Rum Scaffa and its use of Cynar caught my fancy. Instead of rum proper, I first grabbed an aged cachaça and began to tinker with flavor combinations. Since cachaça is a bit thinner than Plantation Barbados Rum Scott used, I wanted to bolster the body, and eventually I happened up on Drambuie to fulfill this roll -- especially when I recalled how well Scotch and Cynar pair. After remembering Matt's love of rhum agricole, I switched to an aged one for a base spirit, and the change worked albeit it drove the profile to be a little less funky and perhaps more approachable.

With such a quirky drink, it definitely needed a quirky name, and Madame Mustache answered the call. Here is what I wrote on the Facebook event page:
The most curious drink of the night tonight is named after the most curious lady of the bunch, Eleanore Dumont, better known as Madame Mustache. To honor her, there is a Scaffa -- a room temperature, non-dilute cocktail, and feel free to raise a glass with Blue Room's Matthew Schrage for it is his birthday tonight and he requested a Scaffa and he loves rhum agricole (the base spirit here).

When Eleanore arrived in San Francisco in 1850, she claimed to have been the daughter of a French viscount amongst other sordid tales, although it is believed that she was born in New Orleans. At this time, the mustache had not made the trip over to the Wild West yet and she was quite beautiful. She found a job as a card dealer; her game was Vingt-et-un a/k/a "21", a pre-cursor to Blackjack, and by 1854, she had earned enough money to open her own luxurious gambling house. Miners came to be around her witty and charming persona and found losing money was balanced by the privilege of being around her. Amusingly, she was known to buy the men who lost heavily at her table a glass of milk when they’d run out of funds; although other stories say champagne.

She moved her establishment from one boom town to the next. When she was in Montana, she earned the name Moustache Madame from a miner who lost his temper along with a lot of money, and the sobriquet stuck. Soon after, she got out of the business, bought a ranch, and settled down with a handsome man, but sadly he disappeared with all the money, sold the ranch, and left her with debt. Legend has it that she hunted him down and shot him dead from a double shotgun blast. She denied it at first and the sheriff did not bother to investigate, but years later she admitted to it.

At this point, she was penniless, the mustache was in full effect, and her body was not as shapely as before, so men were not seeking her out for her beauty. She chose not to shave off the mustache; it was surmised that she was a shrewd business woman and used it as a gimmick akin to the bearded lady at a sideshow carnival. She still drew customers but she became less of a lady and more of a character. Her establishments were more second rate than lavish at this point, and she added the bordello aspect to her business. Her gambling abilities also went south; one night she had to borrow $300 which she then lost. She then wandered out into the desert with a wine bottle laced with a lethal dose of morphine and with a written suicide note and will.

So raise a glass tonight in honor of the good times in life, but be careful -- Madame Mustache has been known to carry a derringer pistol under her skirt. And after a few, the mustache will not matter as much.
What I thought would be a fringe drink that very few people would order turned out to be a very wrong assumption. Perhaps it was the name, the description, or word of mouth, but it was one of the top 2 or 3 best sellers of the 9 drinks that evening. In fact, we came a jigger away from finishing a freshly opened bottle of Drambuie that night. Luckily, given its popularity, the drink was so easy to make; however, the best part was seeing people ordering the drink by gesturing their finger across their lip!
scaffa cocktail
When made with aged Seleta Cachaça, the drink's nose contained grapefruit oils that complemented the funky grassy notes from the sugar cane spirit. A honey and caramel sip led into a grassy and herbal swallow and spice finish. Once remade with aged rhum agricole, the grassy notes remained but the funkier notes diminished; I cannot tell which way I prefer the drink, but the tribute to the birthday boy aspect won out.


Lauren @ Gourmet Veggie Mama said...

I am tempted to make this one just because I like the name. My 2-year-old is obsessed with mustaches right now... not that she'd be sharing with me.

frederic said...

Nice. I wonder if the name -- which I thought at first would be a hindrance or at least a warning -- was in fact a selling point... So easy to make, yet so satisfying.

Paul said...

Tried this Frederic and used La Favorite Rhum Agricole Vieux and it turned out perfect. Very smooth and a bit sweet but with the funkiness you mention in your tasting notes and with a hint of bitterness from the Angostura and Cynar. I like scaffas as they don't get diluted and the flavors are more prominent in non chilled drinks although I am sure it would not work for many drinks.