Lush Life: Spanish Moss Cocktail
A New Orleans mixologist adds moss to his Jean Lafitte cocktail.
The flavors of New Orleans are unmistakable: the salty brine of a raw Gulf oyster, the dark roux of crawfish etouffee and spongy bread wrapped around a fried shrimp po' boy. But when mixologist Alan Walter of loa, the chic bar in the International House hotel, decided to create a cocktail representative of the Crescent City, he looked towards the sky instead of the sea.
Using a method similar to steeping tea, Walter creates a syrup out of Spanish moss, the flowering plant that grows on oak trees across the Southeast. It plays off rum and fresh lime juice in the Jean Lafitte, a drink named after the legendary Gulf Coast pirate.
"The moss tastes very earthy," Walters says. "The cocktail feels like drinking a mystical short story about the South."
With little more than a butane-powered camp stove behind the bar, Walter captures the essence of pine needles he gets from City Park and caramelized pandan leaf he buys at a local Vietnamese market for other drinks on his "potations" and "preparations" menu. Though his exact syrup recipes are proprietary, Walter shares the steps to his Spanish Moss syrup below, plus a trick for rimming the glass with dried lime and fennel.
The Jean Lafitte
Courtesy of Alan Walter
1 ounce Matusalem Platino rum
1 ounce Campo de Encanto pisco
.75 ounce Spanish moss syrup*
.5 ounce fresh lime juice
Powdered dried lime and fennel, for garnish*
Shake rum, piscoa, lime juice and moss syrup together. Serve up in a glass with powdered dried lime and fennel around the rim.
Spanish Moss syrup:
- Spanish moss
Steep the moss in water over and over until it's heavily concentrated. Then put it in a pot with sugar and reduce slowly until the liquid has the consistency of syrup.
Powdered dried lime and fennel:
- Dried limes (available at Greek markets)
- Fennel seed
Combine both in an espresso grinder and use to rim the glass.