“I know we talked about doing a deconstructed rum and coke—because of Professor Longhair’s song “Rum and Coke,” which is this bouncy diddy—but anything I did with Coca Cola just turned into flat Coke—no cola bitters I made came out right.
Originally I tried rye whiskey. I knew I wanted to make something for Professor Longhair, and he took a dive in his career for a number of years. He actually worked as a janitor. He got real popular and then sank, and then he came back with the Jazz Fest. Rye whiskey has that same correlation. For a long time, rye whiskey was the unwanted stepchild of whiskey; but now it’s made a big comeback.
Then I thought of doing a bramble; personally I love brambles. It’s basically gin, lemon juice and sugar over crushed ice and you take crème de cassis and the drink goes from yellow to purple so it’s almost Tequila Sunrise-esque. I think of Professor Longhair as heavily influenced by Caribbean music, so I decided to start there.
I had this crazy idea of doing an absinthe rum drink, which wouldn’t be for everybody, but that’s my process. I start with something and build on top of it and trash it, then do something else and probably trash that. What I ended up with was Caribbean rum and Aperol, an Italian liqueur that’s not as bitter as Campari. Mixed this way, you really taste the vanilla in the rum, which is not something I’d ever noticed before.
Another reason I wanted to do a drink for Professor Longhair was that he was self-taught. I haven’t been in the craft cocktail world myself for very long, so I liked the idea of becoming great by having a bit of passion and just keep on trying and playing. For me, coming up with this drink wasn’t a stroke of genius, more like a stroke of luck. I wanted to keep it light, bouncy and fruity. To me, Professor Longhair’s music is quintessentially Mardi Gras.”
Big Chief Brumble
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 1/4 ounces Sailor Jerry rum
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 1/4 ounce Aperol
- Squeeze lemon into shaker, adding lemon too.
- Add rum and simple syrup.
- Shake with ice, then strain onto fresh, crushed ice.
- Pour Aperol onto center.
- Garnish with a sliver of lemon candy: Slice lemon into thin rounds, place on an uncoated aluminum cookie sheet.
- Cover slices with sugar.
- Melt and caramelize sugar using a blowtorch; then, chill.
- Peel off candy to serve, discarding lemon.