Re-Telling of the Tale of the Lion’s Tail

Part II

Experiments in Lion’s Tail variants have consumed much of my cocktail focus for the past week or so, and I’ve got a couple more styles I want to share. Before I get into more specifics of the drinks, I want to make quick note of modern drinking’s Colonial past, and maybe find a way to wind some of the conversations around the more indigenous roots of both the spirits and cocktails.

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Credit where credit is due – that allspice (pimento) dram is the best part of this British cocktail.

The Lion’s Tale is credited as a British drink, first appearing in William J. Tarling’s Cafe Royal Cocktail Book in 1937. (BTW – if you find an original copy of this book for sale and don’t tell me, we can’t be friends). The Bourbon base of the Lion’s Tale is an All-American, flag-wavin’ kind of spirit, but the allspice (or pimento) dram that provides the other flavor foundation of this drink is decidedly not. With it’s history firmly rooted in the West Indies – the use of a pimento dram in a cocktail with the cheeky name that infers “don’t mess with the one in charge, or he’ll bite”, opens a world of nuance when considered that the Lion’s Tail was developed in “The Empire”, at a time when Jamaica was colonized. Nationalist stick in the eye? Hubris? Who knows, but the irony of both a West Indies and American backbone to a classic British drink named with a classic British colonist warning is just…. you know?

Bearing that colonialist bravado in mind, I chose to make variations on the Lion’s Tail by adding spirits that owe their historical livelihood to other cultures; Jamaica (Surf’s Up, Simba), Italy (Archimedes’ Cat) and Scandinavia (Schnap to the Main Mane).

Schnap to the Main Mane

Cards on the table; I believe that Aquavit is an under utilized and brilliant spirit. It more versatile than most American drinkers give it credit for, and way more complex than simply a spirits vehicle for you daily dose of caraway. It is my creative go-to when I want to push boundaries by exchanging base spirit in a drink (think aquavit daiquiri or using as a split base in an Old Fashioned). I used the highly awarded Ole Bjørkevoll Aquavit from Rolling River Spirits, because I wanted something clean, savory and herbal for this drink. Substituting brands may give more of an intense anise driven flavor, and you may want to reduce the measure of the spirit to maintain balance.

Schnap to the Main Mane

  • 1.5 oz high proof bourbon
  • .75 oz fresh lime juice
  • .75 oz aquavit – I used Ole Bjørkevoll Aquavit from Rolling River Spirits
  • .5 oz Dry Curacao
  • .5 oz allspice dram 
  • .5 oz fresh orange juice
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters (Angostura is fine)

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a orange zest and a star anise pod.

Archimedes’ Cat

This take on the Lion’s Tail uses an Amaro instead of bitters, to balance the sweetness of the bourbon and the allspice liqueur (we used Kashmiri Amaro from Townsend’s Distillery, it’s well worth searching for). It’s got that complex, piercing flavor that Amaro brings, and pushes the drink in an almost aperitif direction.

Archimedes’ Cat

  • 1.5 oz high proof bourbon
  • .5 oz Amaro – I used Kashmiri Amaro from Townsend’s Distillery
  • .5 oz fresh lime juice
  • .25 oz allspice dram 
  • bar spoon of demerara gomme syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Gomme syrup – you will have extra to store & use in spirits forward cocktails (Old Fashioned, Sazerac) to give them a rich, velvety texture and luxurious mouth feel.  Heat ¼ c water to a near boil. Add the water and 1 oz powdered food grade gum arabic, Stir well and allow it to stand until it has dissolved. (The gum arabic will actually soak up the water and become a sticky paste reminiscent of glue) This will take 2-4  hours. Stir again until it becomes smooth. Make a demarara simple syrup by melting 1/2 c demerara sugar in ½ c water over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer on low heat and add the gum paste you made. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring continually, until a very thick syrup forms. Remove any foam on the surface with a spoon. Cool the syrup, strain it through a fine sieve or double layer cheesecloth into a clean glass bottle with tight fitting lid. You can store in your refrigerator for up to 5 months.

Keep a stiff upper lip & have a cocktail. Until next time….

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