[The Jasmine, Drink of the Week]


The Jasmine

Call it an instant classic. The Jasmine has a short history, dating from a night a few years ago when Matt Jasmine, a dishwasher at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, stopped in at our favorite East Bay bar and had the divine inspiration to ask Paul, our favorite alchemist, to mix him up something new. It was about 10:30 on a summer night, and Paul tells us that at the time, he happened to be thinking about the Pegu, which blends gin, bitters, Cointreau, and lime.

"If I switch the sour from lime to lemon," said Paul to himself, "and the bitters to Campari.... " His face, as usual, betrayed no emotion. Paul prefers to keep his excitement over new discoveries hidden, lest they raise expectations too high.

The Jasmine - 1/4 ounce of Cointreau, the juice of half a lemon, 1 1/2 ounces of gin, and a dash of Campari, shaken hard over ice and served up - is a deceptive drink. For one thing, it's innocently pink. But the taste is nicely bitter and cleansing; the Jasmine makes a perfect aperitif. This is no heavy drinker's mainstay. One is wonderful, two are plenty, and then it's time for dinner.

Paul is proud of the Jasmine, but it has one drawback. It tends to have a bad effect on unsophisticated drinkers. Put a pink drink on the bar, and everybody wants one. They think it's a Cosmopolitan, then they make a face when they taste it.

But Paul's regulars have adopted it passionately, and all devoted Campari drinkers will be grateful. The last time we had one, Paul picked up the Campari and looked at the label. We imagined he was picturing his recipe on the back of the bottle.

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