Plantains are never usually the stars of the show. The starchy cooking bananas are a lot like the malt that makes malt whisky. It takes a chemical process to turn starches into sugars. To prepare malt for whisky, distilleries use heat and moisture to cause barley kernels to germinate, then heat to stop the process to prevent them from going the whole way and turning into plants. Plantains just need some heat. Since we moved back to San Francisco and started living in the Mission again there are Latin American grocery stores on every corner. Limes range from $.10 to $.20 each, and plantains are ubiquitous. For this drink, I fried up two plantains for tasting and garnish, and went with a split based cocktail.
I also live next to ABV again, and the one positive element of COVID is that to go cocktails are now a thing outside of New Orleans. ABV’s menu also features Pineapple Sherry to their menu; it’s delightful. I’m not sure exactly their recipe, but I imagine they probably just cut up a pineapple and let it sit in sherry for a few hours, then strain it and add it back to the bottle. The result is a dry sherry with a subtle pineapple back palate. Drinks like a fino sherry with the flor replaced with pineapple.
For a base, I went with a split between St. George’s heavily botanical Terroir gin and Cognac. Terroir is a beast, containing number of botanicals local to the San Francisco Bay area, including some reportedly foraged from Mt. Tam. The St. George Distillery is located on the edge of Alameda Island, just across the bay from San Francisco. We’ve visited the distillery a few times over the years, and it remains one of my favorite to visit. While St. George specializes in fruit brandies, they also have an outstanding collection of gins, and a great, but hard to track down, single malt whisky. Whenever COVID ends I’d strongly recommend a visit; it takes about 30 minutes to get there from San Francisco, and there is a wonderful “booze row” that has several distilleries, a world class brewery, and even a winery.
The Cooking Banana is a split base between Gin and Cognac. Cognac is a specific type of grape brandy from France’s Cognac Region. America is actually the largest Cognac drinking region in the world, and here in the US we’ve been importing the spirit in large volumes from the 1800s. Cognac adds a rich structure to the drink’s back palate.
The cocktail features two other ingredients: First up is Giffard’s Banana Liqueur, a syrupy sweet banana based spirit that is like a bartender’s ketchup, making everything better. Lastly add a few dashes of Fee Brother’s celery bitters round it out.
- 1 oz St. George’s Terroir Gin
- .75 oz Cognac
- .75 oz Pineapple Infused Sherry
- .25 oz Giffard’s Banana Liqueur
- 2 Dashes celery bitters
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice
- Stir very well and strain into a cocktail glass
- Garnish with fried plantains