These camp cocktails always find their mark
In this season when men and women throughout Texas load up their arms and head out to the woods, marshes and fields, giving up the warm comforts of home for extended periods of time in search of wild creatures, they must not lose sight of bagging the most elusive catch of all — the perfect camp cocktail.
Be warned, it will take several shots to get it.
Truth be told, alcoholic beverages and hunting have a deep and rich relationship. One has only to stroll down the aisles of a liquor store to suddenly feel on safari. There is Famous Grouse scotch, Royal Stag whisky, Grey Goose vodka, Dove rum, Deer brandy and Wild Turkey bourbon, in addition to labels with pictures of squirrels, pheasants and caribou. There are a variety of liquors with the name Hunter included, as well as other brands that pay attention to things that go with hunting, like Bird Dog, Gun Powder, Shotgun, Rifle and Arrow.
Why, even the shot glass, every bartender’s friend, is said to have its name because of hunting. Similar-sized glasses were placed on properly set tables in early times so guests had a place to put the lead shots often found in the meats they were served. The shots could be used again as could the shot glasses.
Great hunting camp cocktails often lean toward heartier bourbon and scotch drinks and usually with a limited number of frills in making them. It is a camp after all.
In fact, if any liquor can claim a little provenance in this country, it would be bourbon, which is mentioned in a number of hunting journals all the way back to the early 1800s. In 1879, however, every hunter who loved bourbon received the excuse needed to lug a bottle or two along. An issue of Hunters & Trappers magazine said it was necessary in case of rattlesnake bite. “When bitten, take a good whiskey and drink as fast as you can stand it; allow yourself to feel the liquor before you stop taking it; I mean, drink a half a pint ….”
That may or may not have been the inspiration for one particularly excellent hunting camp cocktail named, appropriately, the Snake Bite. Unlike the English version of this drink that calls for equal parts hard cider and stout in a tall glass — their snakes aren’t venomous — the original North American version is a full shot of Canadian whiskey with a dash of lime juice. It’s a long way from a full pint, so hopefully the snake that does the biting is small.
There are cocktails created specifically for hunters. These are cocktails one could drink at home, but something just gets lost if the drink doesn’t follow a long day of sitting in a stand, hunkering down in the reeds or hiking a field. Such is the case of the Hunting Party Cocktail, which could also be called the I Don’t Want To Carry All These Almost Empty Bottles Home cocktail. It consists of one part Jack Daniels, one part Jim Beam, one part gold tequila, one part Wild Turkey and one part scotch shaken with ice and strained. Lock up the guns and enjoy.
For happy campers wanting to bring a little sophistication into the wilds, there are some suggested hunting cocktails for which the ingredients require a little planning before loading up the pack mule.
A classic one comes from one of history’s most classic hunters, one Ernest Hemingway. His Death in the Afternoon cocktail, first published in 1935 in a cocktail book with contributions from famous authors, requires a jigger of absinthe poured into a Champagne flute and then topped to the brim with cold Champagne. Champagne and absinthe aren’t in the usual camping supply bag, but this drink may make it worth adding them. Hemingway’s instructions were to drink three to five of these at one sitting, but one might reconsider that last part with an ounce of sobriety.
The Deer Camp Old Fashioned is another cocktail needing a little planning but, again, the reward may be worth the extra packing. This calls for apple cider and good bourbon, but these are mixed with a teaspoon of brown sugar, a teaspoon of orange zest, a pinch of turmeric and an orange twist. A drink called the Hunter’s Cocktail is made for after a hunt on a cold day, using 11⁄2 ounces of bourbon matched with 1⁄2 ounce of cherry brandy over ice or without. It’s a sipper, not a gulper.
In the December 2019 issue of Field & Stream magazine, writer Matt Wettish approached a number of hunters asking them for recipes and descriptions of their favorite camp cocktails. The result was a fascinating array of drinks, some made of just a few simple ingredients and others, imaginative takes on classics or creative concoctions that are worth a try. There was the Made-in-America Mule, a take on the Moscow Mule that did away with egg whites and all the other frills by substituting ginger ale and beer to add to the vodka. The Bloody Buck was a morning Bloody Mary-style drink that included strips of venison jerky.
One of the more fascinating ones Wettish discussed was The Hunt Master’s Tea, a tea-based drink, served hot or cold, with a stiff backbone of Jägermeister. Wettish points out the appropriateness of inviting Jägermeister to camp in that, in German, the liqueur means “master of the hunt.” The drink is stout with black tea, but slightly sweet with a touch of honey and tart, with a dash of lemon zest.
All in all, these drinks can only mean the hunt has been successful, even if all the wild game are all still alive and gallivanting in the woods and fields when it’s time to pack up camp. It took just a few shots for success, and, admit it, glasses are so much easier to clean than a carcass.
This drink was included in a December 2019 story, “9 Hunting Camp Cocktails for the Holidays” by bartender/bar owner Matt Wettish in Field & Stream Magazine.
The Hunt Master’s Tea
2 ounces Jägermeister
2 ounces black tea
1 ounce lemon juice
½ ounce honey
Brew the black tea. Add honey, and stir until dissolved. Add Jägermeister and lemon zest, and pour into a mug or a glass over ice.