Good Lord, is it December already? Thanksgiving breezed by, and since then major work issues have kept me glued to the phone and computer, doing unpleasant yet unavoidable tasks, for near every waking moment. And now, blast it, it’s Christmas–time to be stringing lights and mixing eggnog, elbowing shoppers in a department store and watching A Charlie Brown Christmas (I’m doing it to bond with my kids, of course), and not stuck to a keyboard trying to sweat my way through a deadline.
But while it’s a few days until I can completely slough off these distractions and fully embrace the holiday spirit, I can still take a Friday night to tip a glass to the season. And when Christmas rolls around, there are few drinks finer for an evening tipple than the Stinger.
Like signet rings and school ties, Stingers were once a badge of the upper-crust. But then, according to Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts, it found new popularity among pilots during the Second World War. Once the riff-raff got hold of it, the Stinger was fair game for anyone looking for a post-prandial bracer or a nice, mellow nightcap.
Mixed properly–which is quite easy, given there are only two ingredients–the Stinger is a very agreeable character to have around. It’s also quite flexible; while most recipes call for brandy, I’ve seen (but not tried) versions made with gin and vodka, and I’ve grown quite fond of those made with dark rum or bourbon (the latter is sometimes called a “Dixie Stinger,” though since the name is obscure and sounds like a stripper’s pseudonym, I’ve been apprehensive about ordering one in a public establishment). My personal favorite nowadays is a bourbon stinger made with Maker’s Mark, the soft, wheaty character of the whiskey functioning perfectly with the smooth taste of mint.
Key to preserving the Stinger’s charm is a gentle hand with the creme de menthe. While most bar manuals call for proportions as great as 2:1 (a few older ones even call for equal parts), a 4:1 ratio, or one even drier, is usually all that’s needed to give your base spirit a gentle touch of mint. And when mixing a Stinger, keep in mind that this is the one all-liquor drink that is best prepared shaken rather than stirred–the mint functions better in a drink with near-arctic chill, and the heaviness of the liqueur is somewhat lightened by the bubbles. While Stingers are perfectly acceptable when served straight-up, pouring them over crushed ice helps preserve the cocktail’s frigid flavor.
Tomorrow, back to work. Tonight, though, it’s time to think about my gift list and entertain thoughts about the coming holidays.
- 2 ounces brandy (make mine with bourbon; rum is also nice)
- 1/2 ounce (or less) white creme de menthe
Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass, or into Old Fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint leaf, if you’ve got one lying around.
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