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Cocktail Overhaul: A Revamped Grasshopper


The Grasshopper cocktail is a sweet green-colored after dinner drink. The original concoction called for green crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and cream or half and half. This green monster practically screams out for a remake.

The Grasshopper cocktail might sound like a classic of the bright-colored-'tini age, but according to cocktail lore, it was actually created back in 1919 by Philbert Guichet, the owner of Tujaque's in New Orleans, for a cocktail contest in New York. The green drink reportedly took home the second place prize. (No one seems to know what won the gold medal.) But the drink remained in relative obscurity for sometime before gaining popularity throughout the American South during the 1950s and 60s.

The base flavors of the Grasshopper, mint and chocolate, are a classic (and delicious) combination, but in revamping the cocktail, I wanted to move away from cheap and artificial tasting liqueurs. One option is to replace them with the high-quality creme de menthe and creme de cacao from Tempus Fugit, but I wanted to emphasize the fresh flavor of real mint leaves.

With Momofuku's revolutionary cereal milk in mind, I decided to infuse half and half with fresh mint to get a bright, authentic flavor. I tried two methods: in one version, I heated the milk to create the infusion, and in the other, I infused the mint into the milk in a sealed container in the refrigerator. The fridge version resulted in a lighter but fresher flavor.

The original Grasshopper has no base spirit, but something was needed to give it some backbone and structure in addition to the fresh mint and chocolate flavor. I turned to two spirits that are perfect for after dinner sipping: aged rum and cognac. These robust spirits add the body and strength necessary to keep the drink in balance. 


  • For the Mint Cream:
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup picked and washed mint leaves
  • For the Cocktail:
  • 1 1/4 ounces mint cream
  • 1 ounce cognac
  • 1 ounce aged rum
  • 1/2 ounce creme de cacao, such as Tempus Fugit
  • 2 dashes mint bitters, such as Fee Bros.
  • 2 dashes chocolate or mole bitters
  • 2 sprigs mint (for garnish)


  1. For the Mint Cream: Combine mint and half and half in a sealed container. Transfer to refrigerator and allow to infuse for 2 days. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and discard mint.

  2. For the Cocktail: Combine mint cream, cognac, rum, creme de cacao, mint bitters, and chocolate bitters in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, shake until well chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with 2 sprigs of mint.




This Make-Ahead Fizzy Strawberry Pisco Punch

Strawberry Pisco Punch20160714 pisco strawberry punch vicky wasik 1

I like to simplify. I like to make dinner from what I've got in the pantry, and make cocktails with the bottles in my liquor cabinet. I'm loath to tell you to buy something new just to make a drink...but that's exactly what I'm going to do. I promise you, this punch is worth it.

Designed by Zac Overman of Seattle's Sitka & Spruce, this is the perfect prep-ahead summer party drink. Like no other punch I've tried before, it captures the juicy, complex flavor of a ripe strawberry by bolstering that flavor with a few special ingredients. It starts with the berries, of course, plus fresh thyme, tart lemon, and fizzy, bright sparkling wine.

The key addition is a bittersweet, fortified wine–based aperitif called Bonal. As Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters and the upcoming Amaro, wrote me in a recent email, this stuff is remarkably flavorful and complex: "What I love about amaro and spirits like Bonal—with its double-hit of woody bitterness from cinchona and gentian—is that each bottle can play well as a modifier or base in a cocktail, but on their own over ice, the balance of spirit, herbs, sweetener, and bitterness packs as much complexity in the glass as a well-made cocktail."

Bonal is earthy and herbal, with vivid plummy flavors: "The deep, rich fruit ties in the strawberry flavor" in this drink, notes Overman. "And the herbal components blend really well with the thyme." If you're a fan of Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, you'll like Bonal, too; they have a lot in common, though Bonal is a bit lighter and a bit more bitter. "Bonal actually dries the drink out and keeps it from becoming too sweet," explains Overman.

 20160714 pisco strawberry punch vicky wasik 2

The last key ingredient—the spirit base—is a bit more flexible. At Sitka & Spruce, the punch is made with Vitis Pinot Gris Aguardiente, a grape brandy made in the pisco style by a Chilean-born distiller in Woodinville, Washington. (It can't be called pisco, since it's not made in Chile or Peru.) Feel free to track it down, but Overman says you can use pisco instead; BarSol Primero Quebranta works wonderfully.

You'll start by whipping up an easy, fantastically aromatic berry syrup, simmering quartered strawberries and thyme together with water and sugar. This part can be done up to a week in advance, and you can use the leftover syrup to add flavor to seltzer for any non-tippling guests.

You'll add a bit of the strawberry syrup to a mix of pisco, Bonal, and lemon; throw it in the fridge until you're ready to go, or put this punch mix in a pitcher and serve immediately. Each glass gets filled with ice, then a few ounces of sparkling wine and the punch mix. You might want to keep a second batch on hand—this stuff has a way of disappearing quickly.


  • For the Strawberry-Thyme Syrup:
  • 1 cup (240ml) water
  • 1 cup (195g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup quartered strawberries (about 5 to 6 small berries; 65g)
  • 7 sprigs fresh thyme
  • For the Punch Mix:
  • 4 ounces (120ml) Strawberry-Thyme Syrup
  • 6 ounces (180ml) pisco (such as Barsol)
  • 6 ounces (180ml) Bonal
  • 6 ounces (180ml) fresh juice from 4 lemons
  • To Serve:
  • 1 (750ml) bottle dry sparkling wine, chilled


1. For the Strawberry-Thyme Syrup: Add water, sugar, strawberries, and thyme to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove solids. Let cool before using. Syrup can be refrigerated up to 1 week.

2. For the Punch Mix: Combine Strawberry-Thyme Syrup, pisco, Bonal, and lemon in a small lidded pitcher or quart-size Mason jar. (You will have 22 ounces of the punch mix.) Stir to combine. At this point, mix can be used immediately or covered and refrigerated up to 10 hours. Extra Strawberry-Thyme Syrup can be served with seltzer for a nonalcoholic drink.

3. To Serve: Fill each Collins glass with ice. Add 3 ounces sparkling wine and 2 3/4 ounces punch mix to each glass and stir gently. Serve immediately.

Saigon's much-anticipated first street food zone opens for business

Peace at last for some vendors who will no longer have to play cat and mouse with officers enforcing the city's sidewalk campaign.

Ho Chi Minh City opened its first street food zone in District 1 on Monday as part of the district’s acclaimed efforts to clean up its sidewalks.

If you hadn't already heard, the campaign is taking a zero-tolerance approach to remove cars, bikes, vendors and structures that invade the sidewalks and rob pedestrians of their space.

The first zone on Nguyen Van Chiem Street has been designated for low-income vendors who will not have to pay a fee to sell their goods in the zone.

Each of the 20 stalls takes up just a third of the sidewalk, giving pedestrians enough room to move around freely.


The first street food zone on Nguyen Van Chiem Street, District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

Wearing a uniform provided by district authorities, a vendor named Phuong said she used to sell food in an alley near her home but decided to apply for a license to operate in the new zone as soon as she heard about it.

"My family and I received food safety training a couple of days ago. We hope we will earn more money than before here,” she said.

Another vendor told VnExpress that she can run her business "in peace" now because she no longer has to watch out for officers and be ready to make a run for it at any moment as before.

Vu Ngoc Duong, who works near the zone, said she usually buys street food for breakfast but is always worried about the quality.

“Now the authorities have rolled up their sleeves to manage this area, I feel more secure about the food.”

The street food zone stretches 40 meters on the sidewalk of Nguyen Van Chiem behind the Notre Dame Cathedral, and is open from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Selected vendors are allowed to do business in the street food zone free of charge. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

The city's second street food zone is expected to open at Bach Tung Diep Park near the Reunification Palace in a month.

District 1 authorities started the sidewalk cleanup campaign early in February in a bid to take back the sidewalks for their original purpose and turn the district into a “Little Singapore”.

They have put up barriers and deployed police to stop motorbikes from driving on the sidewalks. They have also been towing vehicles, including government and foreign diplomatic cars, and destroying any invasive constructions that spill out onto the street, some of which belong to five-star hotels.

The project, led by the district’s vice chairman Doan Ngoc Hai, has been widely applauded by locals, but it has also raised concerns for being too extreme. Street vendors across District 1 are possibly the unhappiest and have been seen crying and yelling when police seize their food stands.

The campaign hit a four-month hiatus when Hai mysteriously stepped out of the campaign in April, telling local media that he had to do so as “requested by district leaders”.

With Hai’s hands tied, the mission was passed down to local units, and things returned to the old days before resuming earlier this month.

Upon his return, Hai asked for a “carte blanche to punish anyone that breaks the rules, even officials.”


Here's what to drink to be healthy

* Figures based on This Juicy Water (Oranges and Lemons), Rockstar’s Energy Water, Vimto original (100ml of diluted product), Innocent mango and passion fruit smoothie, full-fat Coca Cola, Ocean Spray Cranberry Classic juice, Pomegreat juice, Sainsbury's red grape juice (not from concentrate), Del Monte Mango & Papaya Juice Drink, Waitrose fiery ginger beer, Shloer Rose Sparkling Juice Drink, full-fat 7up, Asda High Juice Florida Orange Squash (100ml of diluted product).

So for those who don’t get excited about plain old water, what is there left to drink? Here are some suggestions to stay hydrated the healthy way.

1. Pimped-up water

Vicky Bruce, nutritionist with food and drinks consultancy drinkcreate, suggests spiking plain or fizzy water with natural flavourings. Muddle (mash) fresh fruit and herbs in the bottom of a glass – try peaches, melon or berries with mint, basil, lemon verbena or even thyme – and top with ice and water. Or try lemon and lime juice over ice with plain, mineral or tonic water.

Fruity goodness: a few strawberries can liven up a glass of water (ALAMY)

2. Iced teas

Bruce suggests making a large batch of herbal or flavoured tea and serving it chilled. Fruit teas are delicious – there are lots of wonderful blends available – you could also try making a strong batch and topping it up with fizzy water for a fruit tea soda. “Cold green tea with a slice of orange over ice is also good,” she says, “even flavoured green teas served cold are great.”

Cold herbal teas are refreshing

3. Diluted fruit juice

Even unsweetened fruit juice is loaded with natural sugar but Bruce says adding water makes it a healthy option. Try diluting one part unsweetened fruit juice with four parts water – it will wean you off the taste of full strength juice and curb your sweet tooth.

4, Vegetable juice

Jeannette Jackson, nutritionist and author of The Drop Zone Diet, recommends making your own vegetable drink as an alternative to fruit juice. Adding a splash of lemon juice or vinegar mellows and sweetens the taste of the vegetables, she says. “Try avocado, cucumber, celery and lime,” she says, “it’s great for heart health and as a memory boost.”

Green juice is better for you than fruit juices

5. Iced coffee

Cold black coffee over ice, or chilled with milk are both thirst-quenching options that are particularly suitable for people who work out, Jackson says. “This is great before the gym as caffeine increases alertness and improves performance.”

6. Coconut water

Unflavoured and unsweetened coconut water is another excellent option, says Jackson. “It’s rich in electrolytes for a healthy heart,” she says.

Coconut water (ALAMY)

7. Flavoured milk

Children can take some convincing to drink water so try homemade flavoured milk instead of fruit juice, squash or fizzy drinks. Blitz milk in a blender with a splash of vanilla, cinnamon or dates, or add a couple of strawberries or a banana for a fruit shake.

8. Kombucha

This fermented tea drink is booming in popularity because of its supposed health benefits, particular for the gut. Made by adding a culture of bacteria and yeast to a solution of tea, it often also contains sugar but considerably 




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