Lush Life: Spanish Moss Cocktail

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

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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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