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Chris Amirault

The Monkey Gland: My Bête Noire

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I confess that I cannot make a decent Monkey Gland, and it's not for lack of trying. I've fiddled with ratios of gin to juice, changed oranges, gin, and pastis/absinthe, and done all I can. It should be a fine drink, right? I just can't get it right.

Who has a perfect receipt for the Gland? I have Plymouth, Tanqueray, and Aviation on hand, plus Herbsaint, Pernod, and Kubler, so if you can use one or two of them, all the better.

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Well, I certainly can't say that I have a perfect recipe, but...

I've always used blood oranges. Haven't tried it any other way, so I don't really know if they're better than other types - I just love the color, and I do think their particular flavor works really well in this drink.

For me, I think the best combo has been 2 oz Beefeater, 1 oz blood orange juice, 1/4 oz grenadine (homemade, of course) and a dash of Verte de Fougerolles.

But, of course, I had to make one when I got my bottle of St. George Absinthe Verte, because it has a monkey on the label.

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Isn't the real struggle and nuance for a monkey gland the grenadine? Boiled down pomegranate with sugar is one way, but there are so many beautiful variations (just ask Toby...his is adorable). Personally, i hated this drink until a coworker reworked it with our house grenadine.

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My standard grenadine is a 1:1 Pom:sugar version, no heat and a lot of shaking. As for proportions, I've tried 1:1 juice:gin, with dashes of the grenadine and pastis/absinthe, upped the juice, lowered the grenadine, ... The blood orange idea is worth trying; I've always used fresh valencias.

Toby, the issue for me always is balance. I made a Blood and Sand afterwards (Punt e Mes and sale Duggan's) that was terrific, lots of interplay, the sort of complex and interesting drink I enjoy. It made the sloppy, off-kilter dorkiness of the Monkey Gland even more apparent.

What drives me nuts is that I can taste the promise of a fantastic drink in there, but it always turns out mediocre to awful, mocking that promise. Hoping for "Annie Hall," and instead I get "Deconstructing Harry."

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I wasn't sold on this drink either until I got real absinthe (absinthe substitute was too sweet and didn't bring much to the overall flavor profile). I make mine with 2 oz Beefeater, 1 oz orange juice (average valencia), 1 tsp grenadine (homemade with pom), and 1 tsp absinthe. I think it might be the extra absinthe that I really like in this drink, more like 8 dashes than just one and it really adds a sophisticated background to it. Its a lot of absinthe but it really dries up the juiciness of the drink and pumps up the herbal character that it needs to be more than a glass of gussied-up gin and juice.

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We haven't had a lot of luck with oj in cocktails. They just don't deliver the bright contrast of lemon or lime juice. The one exception was the Strega Daiquiri which gets a little zing from lemon juice in addition to the oj. Maybe it's just that you want the tartness of citrus in your drink that oj doesn't deliver.

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I would start by deepening your homemade grenadine with some Pomegranate Molasses (I like Alwadi, which you can get online or at most middle-eastern groceries) about 3 oz per cup of Pom/sugar grenadine. Then, and maybe it stops being a Monkey Gland at this point, 3 dashes of Peychaud's (the anise in the bitters echoing the absinthe) and then a big, fat orange twist on top (flamed in the winter) to punch up the OJ.

Toby

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Toby's on to something. I think the intensity of the grenadine makes a huge difference in this drink. In general, I think that 1:1 POM:sugar just doesn't make a good substitute for grenadine. Rather, it's a weak "pomegranate syrup." IMO, what you want in a grenadine is a backbone of the intense "cooked" pomegranate flavor, with a little acidic kick from the fresh side. To make mine, I do a four-fold reduction of POM, then make a hot supersaturated syrup (put in as much sugar as it can possibly hold -- at least 4:1). Then, after that cools down, I dilute it to approximately 2:1 strength with fresh POM. I have found this to have a sweetening power and intensity of flavor that works just about perfectly in the amounts normally called for in classic recipes.

Anyway, I find that the Monkey Gland works and balances perfectly with 1 1/2 ounces each of gin and fresh squeezed orange juice, with a half-teaspoon of absinthe and a half-teaspoon to a teaspoon of grenadine, depending on the sourness of the orange juice.

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Even though it is kind of cheating, I agree with thirtyoneknots that using variety citrus is a good way to give a little extra zip to cocktails calling for orange juice. Blood Orange, Clementine, Mandarin, etc. Even adding a dash of lemon or lime juice.

I know I've gone on about this before, but oranges are pretty seasonal, even though they are available in the grocery stores year 'round. A lot of the time those large, mealy, watery navel oranges aren't worth eating or juicing. Even if they have a "sunkist" stamped on the side.

This is the end of California valencia orange season and we should start hitting the beginning of the navel orange season in a month or two.

Try to get smaller valencia oranges.

It's also worth noting, that, kind of like the Bronx, this is a light, simple, refreshing cocktail. It's not complicated. Maybe you're expecting too much?

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Toby's on to something.  I think the intensity of the grenadine makes a huge difference in this drink.  In general, I think that 1:1 POM:sugar just doesn't make a good substitute for grenadine.  Rather, it's a weak "pomegranate syrup."  IMO, what you want in a grenadine is a backbone of the intense "cooked" pomegranate flavor, with a little acidic kick from the fresh side.  To make mine, I do a four-fold reduction of POM, then make a hot supersaturated syrup (put in as much sugar as it can possibly hold -- at least 4:1).  Then, after that cools down, I dilute it to approximately 2:1 strength with fresh POM.  I have found this to have a sweetening power and intensity of flavor that works just about perfectly in the amounts normally called for in classic recipes.

Anyway, I find that the Monkey Gland works and balances perfectly with 1 1/2 ounces each of gin and fresh squeezed orange juice, with a half-teaspoon of absinthe and a half-teaspoon to a teaspoon of grenadine, depending on the sourness of the orange juice.

Another way to kick up the acidity is at the very end of the process squeeze some orange twists into it. it helps give another layer to the grenadine. Be very careful with this a little goes a very, very long way.

Toby

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Does anyone have any thoughts on proportions for a Monkey Gland using Seville oranges instead of sweet oranges?

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Anyway, I find that the Monkey Gland works and balances perfectly with 1 1/2 ounces each of gin and fresh squeezed orange juice, with a half-teaspoon of absinthe and a half-teaspoon to a teaspoon of grenadine, depending on the sourness of the orange juice.

This is awesome. Thanks!

Best use of absinthe, and of orange juice that I've had.

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Is anyone else having a problem with the name of this drink?

Monkey Gland

The gin gods are shuddering at the thought of sacred Plymouth going into a drink named as such.

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The gin gods have seen far, far worse than a drink made from the kinds of quality ingredients discussed in this thread. Heck, I've seen far worse things done with gin... within the last 48 hours, even, in a couple of Boston establishments that really should have known better.

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