May 11 is a bit dubious and we’re going to name the Elder Fashion Cocktail as Drink of the Day. You see, the dubiousness of the day is because May 11, 1969 was when the comedy troupe Monty Python formed. Starting with a TV series, they continued through the 1970s and into the 1980s generally disrupting the world, offending everyone at some point and becoming an enduring influence on pop culture. The term “Pythonesque” has entered the English lexicon, so between that and the endlessly quoted lines from their comedy we honor them with an elderflower-tinged drink. Why will soon become apparent.
Monty Python was a British comedy troupe formed of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Their first sponsored project was the TV sketch comedy Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran on the BBC over four seasons. The show itself was surreal comedy that threw out all prior rules. It stood out for its use of absurd situations, risqué and innuendo-laden humor, sight gags and a stream of consciousness. The show became very popular in the United Kingdom, but it wasn’t until 1974 that it gained popularity in the U.S. after PBS started to run it.
Their humor often made use of utterly twisted logic. One episode of Flying Circus, for example, a skit opened with:
“Good evening. Tonight on ‘Is There?’ we examine the question, ‘Is there a life after death?’ And here to discuss it are three dead people.”
Then they turned to movies. Perhaps the most famous, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, was a 1975 comedy depicting the legend of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail. One of the most famous scenes and a return to twisted logic occurs as an impromptu witch trial.
Sir Belvedere: What do you do with witches?
Villagers: BURRRRN! You BURN them!!!!!!
Sir Belvedere: And what do you burn apart from witches?
Sir Belvedere: So. Why do witches burn?
Villager: Because they’re made of……wood?
Sir Belvedere: Does wood sink in water?
Villager: No! No, no, it floats!
Sir Belvedere: What also floats in water?
King Arthur: A duck!
Sir Belvedere: Exactly! So….logically….
Villager: If she weighs the same as a duck……she’s made of wood…
Sir Belvedere: and therefore…..
Villagers: A witch!!!
This of course leads to weighing the accused woman and a duck and finding that they have the same weight.
The Elder Fashion Cocktail
In finding an appropriate drink to recognize Monty Python we determined the use of St. Germain elderflower liqueur would be appropriate. This did not come through the sometimes-twisted logic we employ to select a drink. Rather, it is inspired directly by a French soldier in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who exclaims:
“I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal-food-trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.”
St. Germain is not the only elderflower liqueur, but it is the best known and most widely available. It came to the U.S. just as the Cocktail Renaissance was beginning and was quickly adopted by the bartender community. St. Germain soon became so ubiquitous that it became known as “bartender’s ketchup.”
The Elder Fashion cocktail itself is a variant on the classic Old Fashioned. It was created by Phil Ward at Death & Co. in New York sometime in 2007 and like its inspiration is simple to make. Mr. Ward has created a few drinks we’ve written about, such as the Final Ward, and we quote him with respect to the Mr. Potato Head school of cocktails. The Elder Fashion recipe uses the classic, original cocktail concept of a spirit, a sweetener and bitters.
Elder Fashion Cocktail
- Old Fashioned Glass
- 2 oz Gin
- ½ oz Elderflower liqueur Typically the St. Germain brand, which is widely available in 375ml and 750ml sizes.
- 2 dash Orange bitters
- Garnish: Grapefruit twist
- Add gin, elderflower liqueur and orange bitters to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into old fashioned glass over ice, preferably a single, large cube.
- Garnish with grapefruit twist.
- Queue up Monty Python and the Holy Grail.