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?

Banner Cocktail

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.


UnclePhool said...

Yeah so were Zima and Bartles & Jaymes. I remember stealing Mid from the 'rents cabinet when a teenager. Never thought much of it TBH. I seem to recall that Mid was an ingredient of one of the drinks in the rainbow at Panther Hollow--somewhere between Purple Hooters and Donkey Kicks IIRC.

Swanky said...

I just got gifted Midori in the Hideaway and I shoved it into the booze shelves and am trying to ignore it. I think it will not see the light of day, along with the Mango Rum and Pumpkin Spice Liqueuer.

Nathan said...

Yeah, and then Walton goes on to discuss its "unapologetic color" and that "its flavor quickly cloys."

I dug out my Midori (had to resort to the bar pliers to get the cap off) and tried the Banner and a few experiments of my own. There's just no way to get around the gross chemical flavor of the stuff. I don't think this one can be redeemed.

Nathan said...

The best I came up with is--

1.5 oz light rum
3/4 oz Midori
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz orange juice
3/4 oz cream

Cream is the key to working with '70s spirits, you know.

Chuck said...

Now that you've got your hands on Midori, it's time to reverse engineer the Hand Grenade!

You still need to get ahold of some 190ยบ Everclear, some cheap sour mix, and the most important ingredient ... a bottle of Concentrated Liquid Evil.

Michael Dietsch said...

Great drawing, great cocktail name! Way to take one for the team, Doc.

Tiki-Wise said...

Great idea to support all the dusty bottles on my shelves. I hope you will also find a good solution for my Kwai Feh Liquor...

Doug Winship said...

You are going to make a SERIES out of these, um, gems? Where should I send the flowers when the time comes, or would you prefer a donation to a charity in lieu thereof?
As you review these, I'll bet virtually every one comes in a cool or at least unusual bottle. (Galliano, I'm looking at YOU)

RumDood said...

Did Chuck just ADVOCATE reverse-engineering the hand grenade? On purpose?

Be wary Dr. B, Chuck apparently doesn't like you anymore...

Steve Ring said...

I've always been curious about Midori. I think most bars stock it just because it's that pretty green with the distinctive-looking bottle. Gives the shelf a little chromatic diversity. It looks like something you'd put on a snow-cone, though.

Tony Harion said...

Good luck on this series... really!
I´m not sure, but somehow I got the impression that chuck wants you dead…

Cocktail Buzz said...

Ah, Midori. We too like to exploit pariah potables as well, Doctor. Here are two drink recipes we came up with a little while ago. Enjoy! (Love the illustration, by the way.) -Paul & Steve

Bank of Japan
1 1/2 oz. Yamazaki whisky
1/2 oz. Midori melon liqueur
1/4 oz. Strega
2 drops Peychaud’s Bitters
splash of soda

Stir first three ingredients in ice for 30 seconds. Pour into rocks glass. Add ice, then bitters. Top with soda. Add red pear slice (such as Clapp, Red Barlett, or Red Anjou), as garnish.

Also, our version of the Studio 54 Classic, The Universe, is a great summertime sipper.

The Universe
1/2 ounces Midori
1/2 ounce vodka
1/2 ounce Dumante pistachio liqueur
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Shake for 30 seconds in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Steve said...

I'm going to have to hunt down some organic honey dew infused liquor made from ripe melons plucked straight from the vine last week...there has to be some specialty distillery somewhere in CA or the Pacific NW that offers it. If they can do it with lavender...

scomorokh said...

I think that Suntory has a psychotronic weapon :) It is no simple coincidence that three free blogger from different country write about Midori :)

Laurel said...

I have to admit, from time to time i really enjoy a Scooby Snack. ;)

Dr. Bamboo said...

Phil- Although I wasn't a regular at PHI, I had my share of Purple Hooters when I did stop in. and thanks for the reminder on Zima!

Swanky- Don't touch it! It's concentrated evil! (see Chuck's comment)

Nathan- Even though you declared it unredeemable, I see you still took a shot at it ;-)

Chuck- Everyone thinks you're trying to kill me. (see the other comments)

Michael- Thanks! Someone has to drink this stuff.

Tiki-wise- I'll make a note about the Kwai Feh.

Doug- Yep, it'll be a series. There's a lot of questionable booze out there.

Dood- Yeah. I don't know if it's a good thing to actually find out what's in a hand grenade.

Steve- The sno-cone idea is far from the worst thing you could do with Midori. I think you're on to something.

Tony- Yeah, Chuck clearly has it in for me. ;-)

Paul/Steve- I want some Yamazaki whiskey, and I've never even *heard* of pistachio now I have more shopping to do.

Steve- I'm rapidly discovering that there are specialty distilleries every 30 feet in the Pacific Northwest, so somebody's gotta be making melon booze up there somewhere.

Scomorokh- Absolutely. It's really sinister.

Laurel- Rock on.

Dave in the basement said...

I grabbed a bottle of Midori early on in my mixology phase. I thought it was something I remembered from parties back in college, but didn't quite match the flavor I so fondly remembered. The color looked the part, though! God knows what I was drinking back then.

I didn't care for it much when I first cracked it open, and I cannot imagine many people would drink it straight. After trying it in a few glow in the dark cocktails, it is starting to grow on me. I have a sweet tooth, and tend to use it in pseudo-tiki type drinks. Or beverages with lots of lemon.

Long story short, I like it. I also love the idea of your Potable Pariahs series. Sadly, I will probably like them all, if I have had them.

Keep those spiced rum posts coming too, please. Great work!


Unknown said...

OK, OK I have one. If any of you have been to Vegas, and gone to the late, great Star Trek Bar in the Hilton (behind Sahara), you may have ordered the Borg Sphere. It came in a smoking punch bowl, it was ridiculous. BUT it had Midori in it. In fact I became friends with the bartender and he gave me the recipe which i have pasted below:

Borg Sphere

I personally hate this drink, but since you have requested it, here it is:

* 4.5 oz vodka
* 3 oz white rum (i.e. Bacardi Superior or any other non-flavored clear rum)
* 3 oz melon liquer (Midori is the most common brand but there are others)
* 1.5 oz gin
* 7 oz Simple Syrup
* 7 oz Lemon Juice
* Sprite (can also use 7up or Sierra Mist)

Mix the alcohol in a pitcher or other container, add lemon Juice and simple syrup and about 15 oz sprite, food-grade dry ice for that smoking effect and also some regular ice. There you go. Enjoy.

Jelly Shot Test Kitchen said...

We love the "potable pariahs" concept! Much like Barry Manilow recordings, no one wants to admit it, but someone out there is buying Midori . . . (likely lots of someones are). Can't wait for the next installment!

Nancy said...

I think Midori makes a pretty decent margarita. Haven't really tried it in anything else. Love love love the illustration, and love your writing. "Greener than a recycling bin full of leprechauns"...teehee.