I’d been ogling this unusual concoction from Charles H. Baker, Jr’s The Gentleman’s Companion for quite some time. It’s obviously different from most any cocktail I can bring to mind, and the ingredient that makes it so different — fresh-pressed strawberry juice — is what made it so inviting.
Sure, there are plenty of ways to get strawberries into drinks — the blasted industrial-scale strawberry daiquiris / margaritas that are little more than alcopops with an extra touch of antioxidants, and the assorted mojito-like drinks in which all manners of fruit have been muddled — but this one, calling for the strained juice of strawberries and pairing it with the deep, luscious taste of cognac, seemed very promising. With spring kicking into high gear this past week, and with fresh strawberries appearing in the market, I thought of this long-delayed drink, and finally put one together.
Here’s what Baker has to say:
Another spring, it was in 1926, we sat out under the trees and dined and danced and discussed matters that were old when Marie Antoinette rode to the guillotine in her tragic tumbril, or when du Barry passed in her royal carriage. This Fraise d’Amour, my dear friends, is not a woman’s drink in the usual concept of the word; but, on occasion, can be very apt to a charming lady. It is a deceiver; mild-tasting, insidious, slow to act, but thorough at the last!
La Fraise d’Amour
- 2 ounces cognac
- 1 ounce fresh-pressed ripe strawberry juice, strained
- 2 dashes maraschino
- 1 dash orange bitters
Stir without ice, then pour into a thin goblet filled with shaved ice. Stir once and garnish “with 1 dead-ripe strawberry teed up in the precise center,” Baker says.
I really had such high hopes for this drink — I was imagining that vivacious taste of late spring you get when you taste the season’s first strawberries, and pictured the fat, voluptuous taste of the cognac coming alive with the fertile natural sweetness of the berries.
It was close, oh, it was close — but ultimately, while the flavor was definitely good, it fell just slightly flat. The strawberries just couldn’t kick up enough flavor to make their presence felt in any significant way (and my berries were no schlubs — I sampled plenty on the side to make sure). Yes, there was the lush cognac, and yes, there was some strawberry flavor — but it was so restrained, the flavors faded very quickly. I could have cheated and added some strawberry syrup to get the kind of fruity vavoom I was seeking, but that would have demolished my whole idea of having the fresh berry flavor wash over me. I also could have pressed more berry juice, though it takes a surprising number of berries to squeeze out an ounce of juice, and I was running low by that point.
I may still try this again as we get closer to summer, but only with some berries that are so ripe and aromatic that you can smell them from across the room, and so rich and red that you can see them in the dark. For a drink that didn’t quite work out, this one still gave some good play.