Chanteuse (flute)The Chanteuse has a couple of origin threads. One is my friend Cumorah, who used to work at the bar next door to mine, and is a culinary-school-trained chef and a big fan of Pernod and anisette in general. The other is an Iron Bartender competition that I lost (albeit closely) a few months ago at Tiger Tail in Ballard. The secret ingredient that evening, which we were obliged to use in three different concoctions, was Marteau Absinthe, a French-style absinthe made in Portland, Oregon. Marteau was the semi-official sponsor of the competition that evening (they did, at very least, donate a case of the stuff for us to use).Two of the rounds of the Iron Bartender competition involved creating a cocktail to match with food from the Tiger Tail kitchen, and the first round was an oyster shooter appetizer that was heavy on the salt and lime.
4 oz sparkling wine, spl absinthe, 1/2 oz pernod, 1 cube sugar, peychaud's
soak sugar cube in peychaud's
pour absinthe and pernod over it through a slotted spoon
top with sparkling wine
drop sugar cube in bottom
Now, normally anisette is not the congener that I would match to something like that, but, it being an Iron Bartender competition, I was obliged to use the absinthe. But the classic pairing with oysters is sparkling wine (well, champagne, technically, but you get the picture). And so I got to thinking about how I could combine the two. Absinthe and sparkling wine, that is. I also wanted something light, minty even, to counteract the sour-salt sting of the oysters, which was, honestly, a little overdone.
Mint didn't really seem the way to go, though, but I thought that maybe the eucalyptusy airiness of Peychaud's bitters might work. Mint and Eucalyptus are pretty different, but they do share a certain sort of ethereal quality, in that they clear air passages and soothe them with a similar coolness.
What I decided to do, in the end, was a variation on a classic, the Champagne Cocktail, which is just a glass of champagne with a bitters-soaked sugar cube dropped in it (the bitters being Angostura, the one every bar carries). Instead of the Angostura, I used Peychaud's, and I mixed a little absinthe in as well. It worked okay, though I wasn't as crazy about it as I wanted to be, at least at the competition, but it put the idea for the thing in my head.
Later, one night while I was working at Tost, Cumorah came in for a drink, as she was wont to do from time to time, and told me to make her something. I am, apparently, the only bartender she trusts to just make something up for her, and I knew she had a certain fondness for anisette, and for funny bitters-y liqueurs in general. And so I decided to make her a second-generation prototype of the Chanteuse. I made it without the absinthe, which Tost doesn't stock. I just dropped a Peychaud's-soaked sugar cube in a flute, poured sparkling wine over it, and drizzled a little Pernod over the top, which turned it a lovely shade of green.
She loved it. Which made me happy, because I like when people like my drinks.
So, for the party, I decided to take it just a little bit further, and prepare the drink in accordance with traditional absinthe service (wherein it is poured over a sugar cube). So, for the Chanteuse, the cube is soaked in Peychaud's, over which the Pernod and Absinthe are poured, then topped with sparkling wine, making a cloudy green bubble bath of anise-flavored decadence. Then I drop what's left of the sugar cube into the bottom, where it bubbles away for a while, giving the drink a nicely effervescent texture and slowly sweetening it as the sugar dissolves. It also makes a little patch of pinkish-red below the cloudy green, which I think looks nice as well.
As for the flavor, if you like licorice, you will love the Chanteuse. It's a very powerfully flavored drink, that provokes an odd mellowness when you drink it. It's not the most complicated flavor I've ever devised, but it's a little challenging and exotic (hence the name), and the rewards for engaging with it are well worth the effort, I think.