More than five years back I took a long look at the Monkey Gland, a cocktail containing gin, fresh orange juice, grenadine (occasionally raspberry syrup), an absinthe rinsed glass and — I’m sure you’ll be relieved — absolutely no primate parts! For my first post of the 2020s, we’re revisiting the formula but with a very different base spirit. Let’s see what you think.
The Monkey Heart
1 1/2 ounces brandy or cognac
3/4 ounce fresh orange juice
1/4 ounce grenadine
Approximately 1/2 teaspoon absinthe or similar anise-flavored liqueur
Orange peel (garnish)
Combine the brandy, juice and grenadine in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and shake quite vigorously for at least 10 seconds. Take a well-chilled cocktail glass and add a very small amount of absinthe or an anise flavored substitute such as Herbsaint or maybe Pernod or pastis. Coat the glass with the liqueur and dump out any remaining liquid. Strain the drink into the glass and add the orange twist and consider why it might be fun to have the heart of a monkey — but only metaphorically.
The impetus behind this week’s drink is simple enough — I got it into my head to use some leftover pomegranate juice to make some homemade grenadine, a process which is by no means mandatory but couldn’t be much simpler once you get your hands on pomegranate juice. The Monkey Heart seemed like an excellent way to take advantage and it was, at least some of the time, though I have to admit my tongue was fickle on this one. It happens that way sometimes.
My first try was with the brand specified on the Liquor.com recipe I borrowed from, Hennessey VSOP. It’s a product that deserves to be as ubiquitous as it is, but I was still surprised how subsequent versions with other decent brands just didn’t seem to sell the drink in the same way. I’m no James Bond when it comes to appreciating fine cognac but, to my taste buds, the Maison Rouge and Martell VS I used are very good at the price point and have worked well elsewhere. Here they were fine but, for lack of a better word, ever so slightly medicinal. I do think that switching out my admittedly cheap Absinthe Ordinaire for something more respected (and expensive) might help and, cheapskate that I am, I did see a small improvement using Herbsaint intsead.
I did finally wind up with an improved drink when I switched to Sacred Bond, an intriguing 100 proof bottled-in-bond brandy from Christian Brothers. The added alcohol and the whiskey-live boldness of flavor gave the drink some additional depth, even if the grandma-candy coating didn’t quite go away.