After classics, the Death & Co. book is organized into spirit / technique combinations, starting with shaken gin drinks. The Anjou Mama cocktail is first on the list, and what a pain in the ass it is.
This is the first spec in the book that calls for an infused spirit, but it’s hardly the last. Just to get through the shaken gin section I’ll have to make Szechuan peppercorn infused gin and snap pea infused gin in addition to the pennyroyal infusion, and there’s nearly half a bottle of jalapeño infused tequila in the agave section. But pennyroyal is the hardest ingredient I’ve had to source yet in the book and likely will be for some time. I had to go to Amazon for this one, though not before doing a bit of research which initially scared the bejeezus out of me.
Pennyroyal is a plant from the mint family that’s has a strong smell that’s a lot like spearmint, and has been used for centuries in cooking, to flavor wine and for herbal teas. During the middle ages, pennyroyal was a common herb, but today it’s rarely seen. I had never heard of it before reading it on the Anjou Mama spec. It’s also known historically as a folk remedy for inducing abortions in high doses, and that’s where things start to get dangerous because pennyroyal the plant seems to be perfectly safe but the essential oil could not be more poisonous. For that reason it’s been used as an insect repellent, but has also sadly killed a number of people as recently as 1994 who ingested it hoping to rid themselves of an unwanted pregnancy.
A bit more reading backed me off the ledge, but I have to say I was still nervous to make this. After all, even making herbal tea with the dried herb doesn’t seem to be harmful to adults, but still isn’t recommended, as it can be toxic to the liver, so it doesn’t seem like the greatest idea to steep the stuff in liquor for consumption. I did in fact make the recipe though, and I’m obviously still here typing this, but let’s just say I’m not adding pennyroyal to my pantry anytime soon.
Anjou Mama Cocktail Review
After the whole drama with the pennyroyal, I have to say I was a bit put off when I started making this drink. But, I proceeded as directed and it turns out this is a pretty delicious cocktail. Like I said though, it’s a pain in the ass, and not just because of sourcing pennyroyal, which you can’t even taste in my opinion, by the way. It’s a pain because muddling and then shaking slices of anjou pear pulverizes them into a paste that seriously increases the texture of this drink to a thick, viscous level. Try putting it through a Hawthorne strainer though and you’re going to have a bad time; it immediately clogged up my strainer and I had to take a minute or so with a double strainer just to get the liquid in the glass. Then, I had the fun experience of cleaning pear pulp out of both tools.
It’s a shame, because it honestly tastes awesome. It’s a great fall flavor profile with the nutty orgeat, spicy cinnamon, and floral honey syrups working to create some major complexity. The gin isn’t the star on this drink; rather it’s the pear. The whole drink tastes like a pear dessert cooked in a lightly spiced syrup. It’s on the sweeter side so you could add more lemon juice if you wanted to dry it out a bit, but overall really enjoyable. I can’t understand how they ever made these at volume on 6th St., or why they chose pennyroyal over I dunno, regular spearmint, but I’m sure I’ll come back to this one again in the fall.
Rating: 4 / 5
Anjou Mama Cocktail (adapted from Death & Co.)
- 3 Anjou Pear Slices
- 1 oz. Pennyroyal-Infused Old Tom Gin (Hayman’s) – CBTB tip: I’d recommend using dried mint instead of pennyroyal as it’s easier to source and doesn’t have the baggage
- 1 oz. Gin (Tanqueray No. Ten)
- 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
- 1/4 oz/ Orgeat
- 1/4 oz. Cinnamon Syrup
- 1/4 oz. Honey Syrup
Muddle the pear slices in a tin, then add the other ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into a Nick & Nora glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.