04 February 2009

Benito vs. the Cocktail: Meyer Lemon

I am deeply in love with the Meyer lemon, that wondrous cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange. After years of merely reading about them, the little beauties started showing up here in Memphis, but only in the late winter/early spring. In that regard they're like Girl Scout cookies: scarcity makes you crave them, and binge on them when available. As a Southerner who was raised on sweet tea with lemon, I can say that a wedge of Meyer lemon in said beverage is ten times better.

I've cooked with them, made them into lemonade, eaten them raw, and recently have experimented with them as a superior cocktail ingredient. For the first try I went with an established recipe built on a classic cocktail: the Meyer Lemon Sidecar. 2 parts Brandy, 1 part Cointreau, 1 part Meyer lemon juice. This has a surprisingly spicy quality, and is rich and satisfying. I'd suggest using 2 oz/1 oz/1 oz and splitting it between two people--a little goes a long way.

I decided to make up one of my own... And with the theme of saving money by using seasonal ingredients and the connection to a previous economic downturn, I decided to enter it in MxMo XXXVI: Hard Drinks for Hard Times, hosted by Rowley's Whiskey Forge. (This is sort of like Wine Blogging Wednesday for the cocktail world.)

I don't mean to glorify criminal activity*, but based on the name of the lemon I had to name this after famed Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky. He was born in Russia, so it had to have vodka, and he ran gambling operations in Florida and Cuba, so it had to have rum, he rose to power in the Depression, so it's timely...

Benito's Original
Meyer Lansky Cocktail

Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
¾ oz Vodka
¾ oz Rum
½ oz Cointreau
A slow pour of a little pomegranate juice

Once I mixed up the above (just stirred in a glass with ice, the pomegranate juice added last over a spoon so that it would sink to the bottom), I discovered a very pleasant pink grapefruit aroma and taste, so I boosted this with a few drops of grapefruit bitters. Serve in a tall thin glass or a Champagne flute. Beautiful and refreshing, ought to work for a brunch cocktail as well.

The ideal garnish would be a poker chip with a slot sawed into it so you can stick it on the rim of the glass.

*He mainly seemed to be guilty of providing gambling services in states that didn't allow it, doing accounting work for other criminals, and some possible tax problems. He was only convicted in the 50s of a minor gambling charge. Most of us have friends or family members that are guilty of far worse. This wasn't a guy that was going around killing cops or breaking kneecaps.


fredric koeppel said...

the sure way to fame nowadays is creating a cocktail. perhaps the tony boites of NYC and LA will pick this up. the royalties should soon pour in.

pmjones said...

A poker chip as a garnish? Brilliant!

Benito said...

Nah, to be a real part of the mixology revolution I'd have to include one ingredient that no one has asked for in over a hundred years and one ingredient that's a pain in the ass to make from scratch, like sassafras root steeped in rice wine.

Or to be popular across the country it would have to be something sweet like the "Banana Pudding-tini" made from vodka, creme de banana, and whipped cream, with vanilla wafer crumbs on top (please don't try this).

fredric koeppel said...

we have a sassafras tree in the front yard, just in case.

Samantha Dugan said...

Sounds like a perfect mid afternoon cocktail, super refreshing and light. Now all I have to do is find grapefruit bitters which I have been keeping an eye out since you last posted about it, all I seem to be able to find is blood orange.

That banana cocktail made me shiver in that holding back a gag kind of way. Reminds me of a cocktail we saw on a "featured" cocktails list two weeks ago, a Smortini complete with graham cracker dust around the rim and tiny marshmallows bobbing around in it....I snapped a photo of it, (from the picture on the menu) and was going to do a "If this is what you are drinking" post....and people wonder why they get "sick" when they drink!

The Wine Commonsewer said...

Nicely done. I like the creation.

I once shipped a Meyer lemon tree to some friends in Ohio for their solarium. It should have lived, but it didn't like the sun room so much, even though the temps never got that chilly. OTOH, the Jacaranda lived, but it has never flowered indoors.

Long story to say that you have convinced me to plant a Meyer Lemon to go with my other lemon trees.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

Word is that Meyer Lansky gave the final OK for the Bugsy Siegel hit.

Not coincidentally, 20 minutes later Lansky's boys walked in and took control of the Flamingo, which Lansky maintained a significant interest in for a couple of decades afterwards.

One tidbit about Lansky is that he eventually bought his own Swiss bank to launder all the dirty money through.

Just sayin'....

Still a GREAT name for that cocktail. I love it.


Benito said...


I'll have more on bitters in an upcoming post... stay tuned! Also, I think any cocktail that involves graham cracker crumbs or cookie crumbs was designed by somebody that was way too excited about dunking cookies in their apple juice back in kindergarten.


Thanks for the info on Lansky--organized crime is a fascinating topic, particularly when it's intertwined with goverment prohibitions of one sort or another. Also, I'll kill for regular backyard access to citrus, but outside of Florida and California it's a real struggle.

Matthew Rowley said...

Benito ~

Congratulations on being the first official entry in Hard Drinks for Hard Times.

As someone who used to live in South Philly where goods still fall off trucks and who actually *does* glorify criminal activity a little bit (shameful: we can make our own wine and beer, but not rum?), I heartily approve of the Meyer Lansky Cocktail! One supposes a contraband Cuban rum would be appropriate, no?

Oh, and, uh ~ sassafras nip is quite delicious if you can lay your hands on some.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

I agree, organized crime is a fascinating topic.

I'd check into this before starting the project, but I believe Meyer lemons can be grown from seed successfully. IOW, they don't have to be grafted. Four years later, lemons!

Grow that baby in a good sized pot, keep it fertile and protected from frost and you'll win. And yes, I know you get hard freezes, so you'll have to move it indoors to a sunny window or up against the south side of the house under an eave.

Or you could just buy them at the store when they're in season. Late fall to early spring if I recall.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

One more sniglet..........

Mature limes are as yellow as lemons, which is why they sell them when they are green. So shoppers can tell the diff.