Saturday, July 20, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It’s also a very exciting time here in Central Florida, especially with NASA here in our backyard.
Recently, I was asked to create a cocktail for an anniversary moonwalk celebration. It was requested that this cocktail have a moonshine base, to play off the moonwalk, and include Tang, the orange powdered creation for space travel. The rest of the cocktail was left to my discretion, as a surprise. The true blessing of my career is being able to create something, and watch the enjoyment another person receives from my madness. Over the years I have realized that, as much of it is left in my hands, the key, the secret if you will, is to listen to what the guest, or client, is looking for. Asking questions about what they enjoy, flavors, smells, even colors, and personalizing that cocktail to their specific theme and desire.
Walking On The Moon, as we called it, consists of the following:
1 oz. Ole Smoky moonshine, ¾ oz. of Lillet, ½ oz. of Grand Marnier, ¾ oz. of orange juice, ½ oz. of Tang syrup (which I will describe in a moment), and 2 dashes of chili bitters. Build the cocktail in a shaker tin, shake, and strain into a rocks glass over ice. The cocktail is then garnished with a citrus salt and sugar blend, (I will describe later), and a half moon orange slice.
When starting a project like this I take all the ingredients, and place them into separate compartments and start understanding how each one will react and intertwine with the others, making in the end, a balanced creation with layers of depth. I look for ingredients that I feel will work into the story line I have planned for the drink as well. The moonshine and Tang have been chosen to spin off the moonwalk and NASA, so now we have a theme. Then there is that surprise element I have the liberty to insert. One amazing man, Mr. John Young, decided, during one of our first space expeditions, that it would be a good idea to bring along his corn beef sandwich, avoiding some not so great “space food.” I decided it would be a great idea to sneak a corn beef sandwich into the client’s drink, and take it to a whole other galaxy. Yes, you read that correct. To render 1 liter of syrup use a ½ liter of sugar, ¼ liter of Tang, and, here we go, corn beef sandwich. First, mix your Tang and sugar with water into a syrup. While you’re doing that on one burner use another to grill up a corn beef sandwich. I’ll let you make the sandwich to your liking. I used all the fat and juice from the sandwich, along with actual pieces of the sandwich to macerate into the syrup. After carefully straining out the entire sandwich, I am left with, one surprisingly interesting syrup. Grand Marnier along with the orange juice are plays on the orange, Florida’s best-known crop, and Florida, as you know is the home to NASA. The chili bitters give the cocktail a little kick, just like those rocket boosters. The Lillet is used to round out many of these powerful profiles and give the cocktail some finesse, allowing it to hover back down to Earth. The citrus salt, which I promised to explain, plays on our theme. It utilizes citrus salt, hello citrus, a little dehydrated Sriracha salt, for rocket thruster heat, (really it’s not that bad) and sugar for balance. The garnish, well it had to be an orange slice, a half moon, orange slice. That ties everything together.
When given a good shake and strained over fresh ice, we have take off. The citrus salt is then lightly dusted across the libation like moon dust on space boots, and the perfect half moon orange slice is cradled in the drink like the night sky. In the end we have a quite refreshing citrus cocktail. The drink starts with the dominance of the corn whisky, those round robust corn flavors surface. The Tang syrup, with its surprise guest, lends vibrant flares of flavor. Then the orange juice and Grand Marnier take over, thrusting us to the next level. Rich deep orange hues coat the mouth and notes of the chili bitters linger on the back of the tongue. Slowly the Lillet washes the palate and we are left with soft reminiscence of light orange. All that is left is the next sip.
In the end, one groundbreaking libation, for one monumental groundbreaking time in our history. It’s fun to take another person’s ideas, and run in a direction that leads to something unique. Bringing a customized cocktail to an event adds one more added touch. Listen to the wishes of your guest and clients and deliver them something memorable! As always, remember, “It’s a zoo out there, don’t drink like an animal!”
Until next time, here’s to you!
About Justin Newman
Justin S. Newman is the award-winning Head Mixologist for the acclaimed Bull and Bear restaurant and Head Mixologist for the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, Florida.