I was a bit disappointed that the shake wasn’t as fresh-minty as I remembered, instead it had more of a sweet spearmint toothpaste flavor, with a lot of vanilla and surprising creaminess.
Staring at my home liquor shelf, I found what I thought would be a worthy selection: Zubrowka bisongrass vodka, Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Banks white rum, Hum liqueur, green Chartreuse and Clontarf Irish single malt whiskey. Were they lucky charms? Read on to find out!
Zubrowka Bisongrass Vodka
Zubrowka on its own has a somewhat sweet, spring-like flavor I thought would mingle well with the mint. It did serve to bring that note to the fore, but the botanicals in the vodka and the sweet vanilla started a fierce, Roadhouse-style bar brawl on my taste buds, leaving an astringent after taste.
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is a weightier style with warmer botanicals and less citrus. I thought this might match the creaminess of the shake and play up to the mint. It actually tasted great, except that the mint was completely dismantled. What was left was a pleasant, sweet vanilla and orange peel flavor. I would love this if I wasn’t purposely trying to showcase a minty drink!
Banks White Rum
Banks white rum is a blend of five different West Indian rums. I thought the rum and mint would have a mojito-like effect on the shake. It does take on a surprising limey quality, but also a weird pine taste. I liked the first sip but by the second felt like I was drinking the sap directly from an air freshener tree.
Hum liqueur is a blend of hibiscus, ginger, cardamom, sugar cane and kaffir lime. While it sounds busy, my flavor logic told me since the shake is now served with an optional cherry, so something with spicy, red fruit flavors could work. I was initially worried because it didn’t completely mix in and left a red swirl on top, a clear sign of struggle. Upon tasting, I was blown away by how well the ginger, cardamom and kaffir matched the mint and vanilla. The flavors bonded like long lost school chums at a reunion.
Green chartreuse. It’s sweet. It’s green. It matches so well with everything from cheesecake to gin and maraschinos. How could this not work? Answer: there is apparently such a thing as too much green. The first sip tasted of milky, concentrated, mint TUMS spiked with battery acid. Did I not add enough shake? This only made it worse. I felt as though my stomach was emitting a fluorescent green glow, summoning the mothership. Never mind phoning home. I might need 911.
Irish whiskey in a Shamrock Shake is probably a no-brainer, but I had to be sure with the Clontarf. The honeycomb and vanilla of the whiskey perfectly matches the creaminess of the shake, but is subtle enough to let the minty flavor stand out. It happened to be the only one that didn’t separate after a few minutes. They went together like pub-mates singing to the Pogues on an all night bender.
Conclusions and The Winner!
What did I learn from this? Substances in the same color palate can be too much of a good thing. The right notes will combine to sing a perfect harmony. But when in doubt, stick with tradition. Note to self: invest in some creme de cacao. The shake with the Clontarf would make the ultimate Grasshopper.
Photo courtesy Potjie via Flickr/CC