On the upper Texas coast, you don’t need binoculars to spot ravens, flamingos and even an albatross, or two
A bird in the hand is not worth two in the bar.
Really. Why even bother manhandling one of our feathered friends when any basically stocked bar has an entire aviary at its disposal?
The history between birds and bars goes back centuries, back to when drinks first became known as cocktails. While the specifics of how the name came to be are lost in time, there is no doubt the term makes reference to the tail feathers of the barnyard bird called a rooster.
Since that time, there have been myriad drinks that pay homage to the avian community, allowing bird and bar lovers a happy place in common.
A few years ago, the California Audubon Society went so far as to research cocktails named for birds and came up with some dozen or so drinks that fit the bill. Among them was the Passenger Pigeon, a concoction of Calvados, vermouth and pimento dram liqueur. It will not guarantee one finds one’s way home again.
Another popular cocktail the society found should be familiar on the Third Coast, if not the drink then at least the bird. The White Pelican brings together two kinds of
vermouth and a generous pour of gin. Alas, the Gulf Coast’s more common brown pelican did not make the California list, but there is actually a cocktail just for it, too. This one combines apple cider and ginger beer.
Want to find happiness? A little gin, blue curacao and a dash of bitters produces a Blue Bird. The combining of bourbon, sugar, lemon juice and grenadine is what The Crow is about. More impressive than The Crow is The Raven, at least at the bar. This dark drink is made with vodka, rum, curaçao and Chambord. After several of these, one might say, “Nevermore.”
Two feathery cocktails most familiar to the drinking community are relatively recent arrivals, having been invented in the last half of the 20th century.
Jungle Bird is a popular tiki drink that was created in 1978 at the Aviary bar of the Kuala Lumpur Hilton. It’s a gripper. Unlike most sweeter tiki drinks, the Jungle Bird uses blackstrap rum along with Campari, the bitter Italian liqueur, and then takes the edge off with pineapple juice, lime juice and a little simple syrup.
The other is Yellow Bird, a drink with dozens of variations but almost always with white rum and Galliano, the Italian liqueur. Some say it was created in the early 1950s and got its name from the song, “Yellow Bird,” made famous by singer Harry Belafonte. A few years later, however, a Hawaiian singer named Arthur Lyman released his own version of “Yellow Bird,” that also made it on the Billboard charts. Because Lyman was very much a part of the tiki drink culture and sang regularly at the Shell Bar in Honolulu, many credit that bar with creating the drink. Others dismiss the song altogether and claim the drink got its name from its bright yellowish color and the plumes of fruit slices that adorned it.
In the sad tale of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the sailor in the poem is forced to wear an albatross around his neck as punishment for killing it. In this day and time, it’s possible to let the albatross go to one’s head instead. Simply take an ounce of dry gin, a little lemon juice, simple syrup and Stone IPA, the California beer, and one has one’s own albatross to carry. One can kill several with minimal regret.
Galveston actually has its own Albatross, but it happens to be a bar at 815 21st St., rather than a drink. Therein bar mixer Sarah Thomas has created a number of signature drinks, none of which, ironically, happen to be an albatross. She has opted for a more exotic species and created her own version of The Flamingo, in which she uses white rum, pineapple juice and grenadine.
“Flamingo became a signature drink and is really popular, but I created it because I was getting a lot of requests, especially from women, for something fruity but not overly sweet,” she said. “It got its name because it’s really a pretty pink like a flamingo, plus with the name of the bar, I wanted to call it something that had to do with a bird.”
When visiting other places besides the Albatross, one can order a Flamingo, but what one gets could well not be a bird of the feather. Flamingo recipes abound, varying ingredients and alcohols to ones like gin, vodka or even Malibu rum or brandy. Few allow standing on one leg afterward.
Still not sure what cocktail best comes home to roost?
There’s no shortage of options. Rum and Campari makes a Salty Bird. A Black Hawk feathers its nest with bourbon and sloe gin. Something more Southwest is the Road Runner, made with vodka and amaretto. And what can be more for the birds than the Scotch Bird Flyer, which combines not only a little Scotch whisky and triple sec, but also an actual egg yolk?
Another Scotch-based cocktail in the aviary is the Darkwing Duck, a Boston-born exotic mix that also includes vermouth, apple brandy and walnut liqueur.
Should one make the Scotch Bird Flyer and not know what to do with the leftover egg whites, go soar with the eagles. Called the Eagle’s Dream, this cocktail mixes gin, egg white and crème de violet along with a touch of simple syrup and lemon juice. Skip the crème de violet and replace it with grenadine, and therein one has a Bird of Paradise.
And, so, it’s obvious one doesn’t need to tramp through woods, marshes and meadows to discover the birds of this world. Migrating to the nearest well-stocked bar will do it just as well in more comfort. After that, just wing it.
This is a signature drink created at the Albatross Bar in Galveston by Sarah Thomas, general manager.
2 ounces light rum
1 ounce pineapple juice
½ ounce grenadine
A squeeze of fresh lime juice
Pour all of the ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake well. Serve in a chilled martini glass.