March and its cocktails are a study in contrasts
As months go, March is a psychological disorder.
The month is 31 days of contradictions, contrasts and yin slamming yang.
Start with the fact that for many Christians, March always contains at least a part of the Lenten period when abstinence and pious meditation are involved. And then it tosses in St. Patrick’s Day, which involves the opposite of both.
There’s also the Ides of March thing. The month started off with Julius Caesar alive and closed with him not quite so much. There’s also his no-one-ever-heard-of BFF, Marcus Junius Brutus, who goes from stabbing him to being on history’s A-list for giving one humdinger of a eulogy.
Even back in medieval England, March was at odds with itself. It was then the proverb, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” was first uttered.
The now-common phrase regarding the lion and the lamb is still an observation that winter holds its grip at the first of the month, but in the end, spring eases the world into April.
If the beastly beginning and young ewe ending hold true, March begins with the warming concoctions involving scotch, bourbon and heavy rum, then transitions to drinks with fruit juices, liqueurs and whites like gin, tequila and vodka.
An early March drink, for example, is a famed 1930s concoction called the Lion’s Tail. It’s a robust, spicy cocktail made with hearty bourbon, allspice liqueur and a dash or two of bitters.
Another even better known drink for the season is the Red Lion. The cocktail first appeared in 1933 as the winner of a London cocktail competition. Four years later, it appeared in the Café Royal Cocktail Book, an early bible to mixologists, and earned the distinction of being the only contest winner ever to gain classic status.
One thing that makes the Red Lion fitting for March is its contrasting ingredients, which include chill-chasing amounts of Grand Marnier with springtime doses of gin and orange juice.
Later, also in London, someone came up with a follow-up cocktail called the White Lion, which possibly makes a nice transition to lamb drinks, being it substituted rum for the gin and grenadine with bitters for the Grand Marnier.
Transition drinks might actually make all the confusion of March a bit of fun by starting the month drinking something beastly and ending it with something woolly.
Bonefish Grill, 19325 Interstate 45 in the Clear Lake area, for example, serves up a Winter White Cosmopolitan that suggests the snow and ice of a colder climate. On the same menu is a Tropic Heat Martini, which hints at what is looming just weeks from now in this climate. The Winter White is made with chilled Reyka Vodka, Cointreau, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and white cranberry juice.
The Tropic Heat Martini boasts a mixture of Absolut vodka, house-infused with pineapple, and served with muddled mango. It comes with a bit of lemon juice and a thin slice of jalapeño to give the lamb some horns.
At Tookie’s Seafood, 1106 Bayport Blvd. in Seabrook, March’s lion and lamb come in one glass. The signature martini is called Two of a Kind, which General Manager Ray Montemayor notes is advertised as “not your average pair.”
Two of a Kind starts with Absolut Pear Vodka, which is then joined by Peach Schnapps and St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, and thus is how the lion lies down with the lamb.
The creator of this drink is Ani Iguess, now bar manager at Tookie’s Hamburgers, 1202 Bayport Blvd. in Seabrook.
“We tried a number of vodkas for this, like Absolut Texas and Absolut Hibiscus, but there was something about the aroma of the Absolut Pear that just seemed to be what we wanted this drink to be,” she said. “It’s a drink you smell first and it pulls you in.”
Of course, for those who prefer their cocktails pastoral, lambs are well represented behind the bar.
The Lamb’s Cup is a drink made with vermouth and gin, but sweetened with ginger syrup and elderflower liqueur. Spring blossoms in this cocktail with the addition of cucumber slices and a ripe raspberry garnish. And then there is the Wailing Lamb, another cocktail from the cousins in the United Kingdom. It’s made with a splash of crème de menthe poured in a shooter glass, followed by a layer of sambuca liqueur, then topped with Baileys Irish Cream. The legend is the first sip is of March snow, the second of rain and melted ice and finally there’s the green growth of spring.
One of the oldest lamb cocktails, first mentioned in Robert Herrick’s 1648 poem, “Twelfth Night,” is the Lamb’s Wool. This is actually a hot wassail drink, rich in spices, apples and ale. It was especially well received on cold and stormy nights, which is not what the lamb time of March was supposed to have.
March is like that.
Two of a Kind
Recipe created by Ani Iguess for Tookies Seafood, Seabrook
1.5 ounces Absolut Pear
.5 ounce Peach Schnapps
.5 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 lemon, cut in half
Slices of fresh pear for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker half full of ice. Pour all the ingredients and the juice from half of the lemon over the ice. Shake for about one minute then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a slice of pear.