Drink of the Week: A Parisian Beauty at Black Eye Coffee

Green Girls of Paris at Black Eye Coffee
When bartenders love an ingredient — the way it tastes, the way it smells, the way it’s made, the story behind it — they find a way to create a cocktail centered on that ingredient. When the the first drops of the cocktail maker's creation hit your tongue, you’re introduced not only to that ingredient, but the way it’s been proposed, prepared and presented. For Ted Glynn, bartender at Capitol Hill’s new Black Eye Coffee, that ingredient is Chartreuse, a liqueur made in France by monks who distill it with herbs plucked from mountain slopes near their monastery.

“This is one of the oldest spirits in the world,” Glynn says. “It’s that liqueur that a lot of people know about, or have heard of, but have never tried.” He sees this as a positive. “It’s that thing that allows me to start that process of talking,” he continues, “and nerding out and getting people into cocktails.” At Black Eye Coffee — which becomes more than a place to get your caffeine after the sun goes down — Glynn combines it with Irish whiskey, absinthe, Demerara sugar and locally produced sage bitters. He calls the drink — carefully topped with a creamy foam that also contains Chartreuse — Green Girls in Paris ($9).

“I want to have a variety of builds and styles,” Glynn says, describing how he likes to design his drinks and menus. “I want my cocktails to be just as pretty as they are in front of you, as they are on your palate. I’m always thinking about what kind of classic cocktails I enjoy, and why I love those drinks, and work around that.”

Glynn noticed that he was getting a lot of orders for the Sazerac, that classic American cocktail containing rye whiskey, bitters and sugar. He decided to use that template, modernizing it by adding non-traditional ingredients — including his treasured Chartreuse. The question wasn’t whether or not it would work, it was how to make it affordable. Not wanting to put a thirteen-dollar cocktail on the menu, he thought about how he could stretch the flavor of the ingredients to make it taste great but not be too expensive.

Let’s take it from the beginning. Before Glynn even starts mixing his cocktail, he preps the glass in which it’s going to be served. In the tradition of the Sazerac, he splashes a barspoon of absinthe into a cocktail glass, swirling it to wet the inside of the glass. He discards the remaining liquid, requiring only that whisper of absinthe flavor.

Glynn uses Kubler absinthe, an herbal liqueur from Switzerland, where it’s been produced since 1863. It’s made from a variety of botanicals, including hyssop, lemon balm, coriander, star anise, fennel, mint and wormwood. The inclusion of wormwood, the most infamous of the ingredients which was reputed to contain a hallucinogenic compound, resulted in a decades-long ban on absinthe production. It was only in 2007 that the ban was lifted and Kubler was able to be sold in the United States. The most prominent flavor, however, is star anise, which gives it a flavor similar to black licorice.

“It’s a great beginner absinthe,” Glynn says. “It’s not too botanical. That’s all I really wanted — to make sure that it had that very, very straightforward, honest anise flavor on the palate. I didn’t want it to get lost.”

With his glass prepped with absinthe, Glynn builds his cocktail, which starts by dropping a sugar cube into the bottom of a mixing glass. Glynn uses cubes of Demerara, a chunky, brownish sugar that is less refined than white granulated sugar. Demerara is named after the former colony where it was first produced (now Guyana). After sugar cane is pressed to release its juice, the juice is steamed to produce a thick syrup. That syrup is allowed to dehydrate, leaving behind large crystals of sugar that have a slight caramel flavor.

Glynn soaks the sugar cube with a few drops of bitters, then crushes the cube into the liquid until it dissolves; the same technique is used in making a Sazerac. What’s different is that he uses Wild Mountain Cocktail Bitters produced by DRAM Apothecary in Silver Plume, Colorado. These bitters contain not only gentian root, exotic citrus rinds, herbs and spices, but also wild sage foraged in Colorado.

“I’ve been using their products for a couple of years now,” Glynn says. “It’s kind of like going out and sourcing fresh vegetables at a restaurant that are locally grown, because you’re getting stuff that’s made right here in Colorado. It’s just awesome. I just love how they don’t care what anybody thinks — they just do rad stuff.”

Then comes the whiskey: Glynn uses Irish whiskey in place of the Sazerac’s traditional rye whiskey. The brand he uses is Paddy’s, which has been distilled in Ireland since 1779 and sold under the name Paddy’s since 1943. “I got introduced to in when I was in my formative drinking years,” Glynn says, smiling. “It’s just a great Irish whiskey: well-made, super malty, easy to shoot or sip on. I love it.”

He had no qualms about using this whiskey instead of rye — he knew what he wanted to work with, and he was confident that drinkers would appreciate it. “Paddy’s, for me is just so easy,” He says. “It’s so soft. It has this sweetness to it, but it’s not overly sweet. There’s definitely a good balance of malts. It’s just enjoyable.”

After Glynn combines the whiskey with the bitters and sugar, he stirs it with ice and pours everything into his prepared glass. He’s already prepared his Chartreuse foam, which he keeps behind the bar in pressurized canisters, loaded with nitrogen gas.

To make the foam, Glynn combines five ounces of egg white, a half-ounce of heavy cream, an ounce of sugar syrup, an ounce of lime juice and an ounce and a half of green Chartreuse. “I throw it all in the shaker tin I shake it as hard as I possibly can to get it really mixed up,” Glynn explains. Each nitrogen-filled canister can top eight to ten cocktails. He keeps two behind the bar, whipping up more on busy nights if he needs to.

“Everybody loves this drink,” Glynn says. “It’s one of our best-selling drinks.” He often serves it to guests who aren’t completely sure about what they’ve ordered. But they end up loving it. “They think they know what they’re getting,” he says, “and then they see it, and they take that sip, and even though it looks like something complete different, it tastes far from what you’d imagine it would be.”

Glynn is happy with how he was able to put some of his favorite ingredients together in a cocktail — and how it all came together. “You have that clean, herbaceous flavor, but also the velvety texture of that foam and then it layers out really nicely,” he says. “You have this initial really big nose on the cocktail with that sage leaf, then the Chartreuse, and then it touches your lips — then the Paddy’s on the bottom, with the absinthe, just punches right through, which I think is really rad.”

Green Girls in Paris
1.5 ounces Paddy’s Irish Whiskey
Demerara sugar cube
dash of DRAM Apothecary sage bitters
Rinse of Kubler absinthe
Chartreuse foam

Splash a barspoon of absinthe into a cocktail glass, swirl to coat the inside of the glass, then discard (if you're making it for yourself, just drink the extra absinthe). Set the glass to the side. Drop a Demerara sugar cube into a mixing glass. Add a dash of bitters and muddle the cube until it dissolves with the bitters. Add ice. Pour in the whiskey and stir. Strain the contents into the cocktail glass. Top with the Chartreuse foam. Garnish with a sage leaf.
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Kevin Galaba
Contact: Kevin Galaba