Lush Life: Spanish Moss Cocktail

A New Orleans mixologist adds moss to his Jean Lafitte cocktail.

Jean Lafitte cocktail made with Spanish moss

Jean Lafitte cocktail made with Spanish moss

The Jean Lafitte includes rum, fresh lime juice and Spanish Moss syrup.

Photo by: Image courtesy of loa

Image courtesy of loa

The Jean Lafitte includes rum, fresh lime juice and Spanish Moss syrup.

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
  • Water
  • Sugar

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.

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