Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Potable Pariahs: Midori
There are certain products in the pantheon of drink that are almost universally reviled by cocktail geeks, liquor snobs and discerning booze enthusiasts alike. These are products considered such egregious affronts to good drinking that simply uttering their name in the presence of discriminating drunks invites a fusillade of sneers and snickers.
As I've mentioned before, these perennial targets of booze nerd derision hold a strange fascination for me. I have a compelling, perverse need to somehow redeem these disreputable tipples, and the deeper the antipathy toward a given product is, the more attractive the prospect of salvaging it becomes.
So I began compiling a list of liquors that exist almost solely as punchlines among people who fancy themselves sophisticated swillers. I've labeled them "Potable Pariahs", and from time to time I'll trot one out here and take a gander. I promise nothing, but perhaps simply engaging in the act of reassessing a much-maligned product may grant it a small measure of dignity and redemption.
Or we could just find out that it's as crappy as everyone says it is.
Up first: Midori!
What is it?
Midori is a sweet, honeydew melon-flavored liqueur that is a vivid green color and comes in a distinctively-shaped textured bottle.
Why does it suck?
According to The Ultimate Book of Cocktails , Midori was "an instant hit" when it was introduced in 1978, so apparently somebody liked it. Its Wikipedia listing indicates its launch party took place at Studio 54, which seems entirely appropriate, because this stuff is pretty much the 70's in a bottle (insert your own observations about the relationship between cocaine use and subpar spirits here)
The two main indictments against it appear to be its color and taste. Color-wise, this stuff is greener than a recycling bin full of leprechauns. But I suppose if you use the Japanese word for "green" as the name of your product you really want to drive the point home, visually speaking (As if it really needed to be said, the label indicates in large print that Midori is artificially colored.)
In any case, Midori (much like blue curacao) probably bears at least a nominal responsibility for the rash of oversweet drinks that came in OSHA-certified hues in the late 70's and 80's...and that alone is enough to make the cocktail cognoscenti cringe.
Flavor-wise, I'm not certain that "honeydew melon" is really an accurate descriptor for Midori. I'm inclined toward "non-specific Jolly Rancher crossed with cough syrup" if I had to put my finger on it. It's definitely not the worst thing I've tasted by far, but it does have a decidedly synthetic quality that is hard to ignore. Also, this stuff just screams out to be mixed...I can't imagine anyone would want to just drink it straight.
How can we fix it?
Since it's so crushingly sweet, my instinct is to savagely bludgeon it into submission with something sour. Not a bad approach, but what I'm looking to do is actually retain some of the signature "melon" flavor while knocking down the sugar.
Employing my usual slapdash trial-and-error method (guided gently by whatever dubious intuition toward these things I can muster), I discovered that cachaca pairs pretty well with Midori in a 2-1 ratio, so with my base spirit in place, I chose lemon as the sour component. It seemed to do the trick, and while I generally like to double-strain my citrus in "up" drinks, I enjoy the textural quality of some pulp in this one. A fat dash of Peychaud's and some ginger for garnish brought it all home, so I called it a day. The only thing left to do was name it, and how could I not be inspired by its delightful radioactive green color?
2 oz. Cachaca (Leblon*)
1 oz. Midori
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 dash Peychaud's bitters
Shake everything with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a long, thin slice of fresh ginger.
Can we consider Midori redeemed? It appears that if used judiciously, it can impart a unique, offbeat flavor to a drink. However, I doubt it will be able to overcome its perception as a novelty product and be embraced by serious hooch nerds anytime soon. But it's been around for over 30 years, so I don't think the manufacturer is sweating- There's apparently a big market for green drinks out there. Viva La Verde!
*Although my go-to brands of cachaca are Fazenda Mae de Ouro, Boca Loca, and Pitu,(depending on the drink) I've discovered that Leblon really works well in this recipe.