Sunday, March 18, 2012

Live from Calcutta! The Firpo's Balloon!

Browsing through Charles H. Baker, Jr.'s The Gentleman's Companion, Vol. II: Being an Exotic Drinking Book, or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker, and Flask, I came across a recipe that I could actually try.

Baker claims to have first had this in Calcutta, at a dinner held at Firpo's, a popular nightspot for the Anglo community there. (He doesn't say when, but it is clear it was during the Hoover administration, so do the math.) It was called a "Balloon" because five of them was supposed to send one up bobbing on the ceiling.

Perhaps not pretty, but it does pack a whallop.
So, what's the recipe? Take one jigger each: good rye whiskey, absinthe, and Italian (sweet) vermouth. Pour in a shaker with two dashes of orange bitters and two teaspoons egg white. Shake vigorously over ice, then pour into a wide-mouthed champagne glass and serve. I've barely finished one and yes, it's potent. Five would have me on the floor, or on the ceiling.

A note about wide-mouthed champagne glasses: yes, they are hard to find these days. Everyone wants those silly flutes, which are supposed to hold the bubbles and keep the champagne from going flat. Here's a Dust & Corruption household hint: champagne flutes may look nice, but if you have a household where champagne sits around long enough at dessert to go flat, then you're better off not serving champagne at all and dispensing with the flutes. The tulip-shaped champagne glasses have a certain charm, but the wide-mouthed sort are delightfully multi-purpose, and can be used to serve mousse au chocolat or zabaglione at your parties. I found a set at an antique mall in Hagerstown, MD, some time ago and have thanked my lucky stars; look around and you might be able to find some as well. Old glasses like that are delightful at your table and bound to spark conversation.

Note the next morning: I had two Firpo's Balloons, and I woke with a ferocious hangover. Be warned.

Firpo's; I'm told it burned down in the 50s and was never rebuilt.

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