2 ounces Applejack
1 ounce Bourbon
1 ounce lemon juice
½ ounce Raspberry Syrup
Oh, Minnesota in the 80s, what an incredible time for music!
Or so I’ve been told.
You see, while Prince was inventing the “Minneapolis Sound,” while the Replacements were inventing indie rock, while First Avenue was becoming the center of the musical universe and Minnesota musicians were creating sounds that continue to influence every band on the face of the earth, I was otherwise occupied. I was busy lapping up everything those people were reacting against.
I was wearing stupid clothes and stupid hair, making stupid drinks and listening to stupid music.
I don’t regret it, exactly. How was I to know any different? But now, with the advent of Complicated Fun at History Theater, I get the chance to look back and make some better choices. I hope.
As far as my superficial understanding of the Minnesota music scene in the 80s goes, it looks like there was something about this place that gave musicians the space and freedom to draw on established forms, then mix and mash and smash and grab them, and turn them into music that had never been heard before. R&B and blues and rock and disco and country and punk and metal – it was all fair game.
That’s what we’re going to do with our cocktail.
Step 1: Understand the musical context
I wanted to start with the absolutely worst drink I made in the 80s: the “blue raspberry margarita.” Here’s your quick recipe. Start by playing “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey. Put a few scoops of ice in a blender. Pour in some tequila, add margarita mix to come just below the level of the ice and add a good glug of blue raspberry syrup. Blend until smooth, pour into a large margarita glass rimmed with sugar and garnish with colorful straws and a lime wheel. What kind of tequila? It doesn’t matter. What brand of margarita mix? It doesn’t matter. Where do I get blue raspberry syrup? It doesn’t matter. Be sure to drink it really fast so you get a brain freeze and then die.
So, how do we reinvent the blue raspberry margarita in the spirit of Hüsker Dü or the Jayhawks? We don’t. It’s too stupid. But don’t forget about it.
Instead, like Paul Westerberg listening to the Clash, we will turn to England for inspiration. In the mid-80s, I was a bartender in London on a street popular with punk rockers. They were beautiful and terrifying and they would come into the pub, smelling of hairspray and cigarettes and order a “snakebite with black.”
Step 2: Expand your horizons
The snakebite with black was THE drink of the punks. Here’s your quick recipe. Start by playing “Run, Run Away” by Slade. In a pint glass, pour (almost) half a pint of lager, add (almost) half a pint of dry cider and top with a good glug of blackcurrant cordial.
We have our starting point: a snakebite with black. Now we must Americanize it, add rock and roll, turn it into something new, unexpected, fun and delicious.
The blackcurrant is out. To me, blackcurrant will always and only ever be the flavor of cough syrup. Why not replace it with raspberry from that blue raspberry margarita? And we’ll make our own raspberry syrup which makes things a little more complicated but also a little more fun. Right?
And if you wear a beret while making your raspberry syrup the angels will love you and protect you forever.
Step 3: Make it real
Take a cup of washed raspberries, put them in a saucepan with ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water. Bring gently to a boil and let simmer ten minutes or so until the raspberries have fallen apart and given up their flavor to the syrup. Has your mixture turned a striking, dark blue color? If so, throw it out. Something has gone very wrong because raspberries are red. Strain the mixture through a fine meshed sieve into a jar and let cool. You’ll have lots of leftover syrup. Mix a little with soda water for a nice drink. Put some on ice cream. There are plenty of uses. You figure it out.
A crisp, dry cider is a lovely thing, but you know what else is lovely? Applejack - very American, very tasty and it will kick you right in your stupid face if you abuse it. Let’s replace the cider with applejack.
A crisp, cold lager is a lovely thing, but you know what else you can do with fermented grains? Distill them and make bourbon. Very American, very tasty and nothing bad has ever happened to anyone who drank bourbon. Let’s replace the lager with bourbon.
Bourbon, applejack and raspberry syrup are going to make this drink sort of sweet and fruity, so we’ll add a good squirt of lemon juice to keep things from becoming too punch-like.
And we’re ready.
Start by playing “Hootenanny” by the Replacements. In a shaker or just a glass with ice, mix all four ingredients until thoroughly blended and chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink up, then go see Complicated Fun at the History Theater. That’s what I intend to do.