In honor of National Monkey Day on December 14 we’ll be mixing the Chimpgroni. It’s an auspicious day for drinkers like us since we follow in the footsteps of monkeys when it comes to alcohol. National Monkey Day is recent, started by some college students in 2000, but monkeys are hardly new. They’ve been around at least 40 million years and we have them to thank for leading us to alcohol.
That means we need a monkey cocktail. Or one evolved from monkeys, which we find in the Chimpgroni. This Drink of the Day evolved from two well-loved drinks: the Kingston Negroni and the Bananavardier. So we’ll get to the Chimpgroni recipe shortly, after a detour through monkey history and this honorary national day.
National Monkey Day
We thank Casey Sorrow and Erik Millikin, art students at Michigan State University, for creating National Monkey Day. Sorrow apparently wrote down “monkey day” on a friend’s calendar and ran with the idea. On December 14 he and his friends dressed as monkeys and ran amok.
People like monkeys, so what started as fun has gotten serious. Organizations such as National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution and Greenpeace have gotten on board promoting this simian celebration. Not surprisingly, Sorrow and Milliken took up producing monkey art.
Monkeys, Apes and Alcohol
Monkeys evolved during the Oligocene Epoch and by 40 million years ago they were in the New World (South America) and the Old World (Africa and Asia). They evolved differently, with New World monkeys all tree dwelling and Old World monkeys split between tree and ground-dwelling species.
Apes descended from monkeys some 18 million years ago, which is probably why Tarzan is King of the Apes rather than King of the Monkeys. (Pro tip: the way you tell monkeys from apes is monkeys have tails, apes do not.) In any event, they were all dedicated fruit eaters. And what does fruit do when it gets overripe? It ferments.
Robert Dudley is an evolutionary physiologist at the University of California Berkeley and has been interested in this subject. He hypothesized that that the smell of alcohol in fermenting, overripe fruit actually attracts monkeys. He studied this extensively, and eventually published a book, The Drunken Monkey, Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol.
So there you have it. Enjoying alcohol goes back millions of years and we have our ancestor monkeys and apes to thank for that and for developing the enzymes that allow us to metabolize it. Being intelligent primates, of course, they didn’t leave it at just munching fermented fruit. Chimpanzees are well known to raid stocks of palm wine and velvet monkeys in the Caribbean are famous for stealing drinks from bars. As you can see, some of them get falling down drunk.
We shudder to think of what might happen if you left one alone in your home bar.
Whether any monkey has tried a Chimpgroni is uncertain, but we suspect their palates may tend more toward the sweet end of the spectrum than ours.
While our editorial standards generally lead us to classic drinks or those with known provenance there are occasional exceptions. The Chimpgroni is one of them.
Every year we pay homage to the Negroni during Negroni Week and lay out a program of Negroni variations. Two of those variations are the Kingston Negroni and the Bananavardier. The Kingston Negroni is a first generation descendent of the Negroni and was developed by Joaquin Simó, the modern bartender who brought us the Trinidad Sour and the Naked and Famous. The Bananavardier is a second-generation offshoot of the Negroni, descending spontaneously from the Boulevardier.
The Chimpgroni is a Mr. Potato Head kind of variation that combines elements of these two and is the creation of a contributor known only as Tucker on Kindred Cocktails. Whether you consider it a Kingston Negroni with Banana liqueur replacing part of the Campari or a Bananavardier that swaps Jamaican Rum for Bourbon is immaterial. It’s a damned good drink that any monkey would love either way.
- Old Fashioned Glass
- 1 oz Jamaican rum We recommend Smith & Cross for this one.
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- ½ oz Banana Liqueur Giffard Banane Du Bresil is the go-to here and is widely available.
- ½ oz Campari
- Garnish: Orange twist
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain over ice, preferably one large cube, in an Old Fashioned glass.
- Express twist over drink and garnish.
- Guard drink from any invading monkeys.