Sometimes, it’s all about breaking stereotypes. That statement means different things to different people, of course, but let’s face it: not everyone wants to drink the latest Manhattan variation. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, not because it leaves more rye whiskey for the rest of us, but because plenty of people either don’t like whiskey or don’t yet have an affinity for spirit-forward cocktails. On the other hand, some folks would never order a cocktail with “pink” in the name let alone be seen sipping one. Yet, a delicious cocktail is good in spite of how it appears, or what it is called.
There’s no such thing as a “girl drink” just as there is no such thing as a manly choice. We drink what we like and shouldn’t have to defend our tastes. The bartender doesn’t care what you order, and neither should the person sitting next to you. Still, you never hear anyone order a Pink Panther. It is perhaps unusual, but it isn’t really unconventional. There are classics that are similar enough that we are still in hybrid or variation territory. It’s also a refreshing change from your would-be go-to choice. We are saying, you could do a lot worse with a random selection, so why not try something we know is good?
Pink Panther by Yael Vengroff
2 oz pisco
.75 oz lemon juice
.75 oz orgeat
4 drops rose water
1 egg white
In a mixing glass, muddle raspberries then add other ingredients. Dry shake (without ice), add ice and shake to chill. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a raspberry.
You’ve read the recipe and now you are thinking, “Pisco? Egg white? This is a joke, right? I can see why it’s called the Pink Panther, but you are scaring me with raw eggs and a base spirit I’ve never even heard of!” Just relax. The truth is, if we set one of these down in front of someone and let their tastebuds decide, they shouldn’t care what the hell the ingredients are. This drink is delicious! Before we get too carried away though, we do need to describe some of the details if there is any hope of pulling this off.
First, it’s worth noting that this cocktail comes from New York’s Yael Vengroff, a woman who knows how to make a good drink. Second, some folks describe this as a cross between a Clover Club and a Pisco Sour, though that’s not perfectly accurate, and references to other drinks you may not know isn’t exactly helpful. So, let’s dive right in.
Pisco is a distilled wine-based spirit from Peru or Chile. That technically makes it a type of brandy, but the color is usually clear or nearly so, with a flavor that is noted for being extremely smooth and aromatic. Lemon juice here obviously means fresh-squeezed and serves as the first half of a basic sour formula. The sweet part comes from the orgeat.
Orgeat is a fantastic syrup made from almonds. It’s becoming a lot easier to find a decent bottle now, but we usually make it ourselves. Like good grenadine, orgeat is finished with a hint of floral fragrance. A little orange blossom water and rose water makes it a wonderful ingredient to have on hand, especially for amazing Tiki cocktails like the Mai Tai and the Fog Cutter.
We’ll assume everyone knows about raspberries, but the rose water isn’t as common. You can find it in better grocery stores and middle-eastern specialty shops. It’s potent stuff that tastes and smells exactly how it sounds. You only need a few drops, but it’s nice to have a small bottle.
Now, the egg white isn’t as scary as you might think. You need it to build a protein emulsion. That’s why we shake it without ice first. We want a frothy meringue just like a pie, and when you think of it that way, it makes perfect sense as a cocktail topping. The almond, the rose water and the raspberries scent the lovely espuma and the whole drink takes on a luscious mouth-feel. No need to worry about raw egg whites. We have alcohol and citric acid on our side. Besides, the chances of encountering a bad egg is less than one in twenty-thousand.
Putting it all together, the raspberries contribute to the pink color as well as the flavor—and who doesn’t love raspberries? The orgeat provides a nutty backdrop highlighted by its aromatics and boosted by the additional rose water. The lemon keeps it all on the tart side and prevents the drink from becoming runaway sweet. As always, you can tweak the balance to your taste by adding a little more or a little less. It’s all a wonderful delivery system for the pisco, an underutilized base spirit that deserves more recognition than it gets—like this cocktail.