SG + SHG Gift
The Stranger 

Every few years or so it seems the brains of the folks down in Arizona (aka God’s underwear chafe) burst with a brilliant idea that seems to justify the rest of the world’s perception of them as backwards ass, gun-toting, cactus-chewing clodhoppers.

In the early 90s they decided they’d rather not recognize the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday, and as a consequence the state received an economic kick in the balls from numerous boycotts (including the loss of Super Bowl XXVII) that wound up costing it over $300 million in lost revenue.  Remember the song "By the Time I Get to Arizona" by Public Enemy? It was about that whole issue.

Well it looks like Public Enemy's old song is relevant again, as the fine folks of Arizona have come up with another humdinger that once again proves that too much heat can really fry ALL of your brain cells.  In a move that can only be cast as a throwback to the chilling phrase “Papers, please,” made famous during the Third Reich, the state recently passed a law that gives police discretion to stop anyone they wish and demand proof of their legal status.  In other words if you look like a Mexican, you better have your papers handy or else you can be detained until you do produce them, even if you are in fact a citizen.  And if you don’t produce your papers, well, remember what happened to Rudy in Born in East LA? Yeah.

What does this all have to do with cocktails, you ask? Well, not much, really, other than the fact that this issue has weighed heavily on my mind all week, and perhaps as a result it influenced me on a subconscious level when trying to come up with a name for this week's cocktail.  But more than anything else it’s just something I felt needed to be said, and this blog is the biggest loudspeaker I have for saying it.

The Stranger
3 oz cantaloupe juice (if you puree, don’t forget to strain it)
2 oz thyme-infused cachaca (see below)
½ oz fresh lemon juice
Healthy pinch ground dried green peppercorns
Pinch celery salt
4 dashes Mole Rojo Bitters by A.B. Smeby (optional)
¼ oz agave nectar (optional, depending on taste and sweetness of cantaloupe)
Top with ginger beer

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: Collins

Place everything except ginger beer in a shaker with ice and shake hard for at least 10 seconds or so; strain into an ice-filled Collins or other similarly tall glass.  Top with ginger beer, and give it a light stir.

To make the thyme-infused cachaca, simply take a handful of fresh or dried thyme (fresh thyme infuses a bit slower) and steep it in a jar filled with cachaca.  Give it about a day for dried thyme and a little longer for fresh. Once or twice a day give the jar a little shake, and you can taste it along the way and give more time if needed depending on how strong of a thyme flavor you want to impart.

A few notes on green peppercorns and those bitters you’ve probably never heard of. Green peppercorns are what black peppercorns look like before they’ve ripened. They’re harvested prior to maturity and have a very mild, slightly vegetal flavor.  They have much less of a peppery pungence than black peppercorns, so you can apply them a little more liberally here.

As for the A.B. Smeby Bitters, it’s a small-batch brand made by Brooklyn bitter artisan Louis Smeby.  In addition to the amazing Mole Rojo flavor, there are a bunch of other seasonal flavors of bitters he’s created , like Lemon Verbena, Black & White (Chocolate and Vanilla), and a slew of others. Unfortunately because of the government approval process (bitters do contain alcohol after all), they’re not yet available for purchase.  And that’s why I made them optional in this recipe, though they really do take the drink to a different plane.  I got my hands on some because I’m lucky enough to be working with him to produce cocktail recipes that highlight the bitters, and from time to time I'll post more original recipes featuring this unique line.

As an aside (here comes the shameless plug), I’ll be featuring Smeby’s bitters in an original punch creation for an upcoming event called The Dizzy Fizz Tastemaker’s Punch (May 17), which is part of the larger Manhattan Cocktail Classic (May 14-18).  If you happen to be in NYC in mid May or can make it out here, I strongly suggest it. It’ll really be an awesome five days of cocktail related shenanigans, with a range of seminars, tastings, and parties to suit both professional and amateur enthusiasts alike.

And don’t worry about bringing your papers. The only papers you’ll need in this state are the ones you roll with.  So don’t be a stranger.

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below.