Friday, 20 June 2014

LOST INGREDIENTS: Forbidden Fruit

By Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller

Rumblings have been heard for a few years now about a lost ingredient that makes frequent appearances in The Savoy Cocktail Book and The Café Royal Cocktail Book: a citrus liqueur called Forbidden Fruit. 

Certainly Harry Craddock’s Virgin Cocktail and Tantalus Cocktail could be easily replicated by substituting triple sec and grapefruit bitters for the mysterious Forbidden Fruit.

Virgin Cocktail
1 part Forbidden Fruit Liqueur
1 part crème de menthe
1 part dry gin
Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tantalus Cocktail 
1 part Forbidden Fruit Liqueur
1 part fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 part dry gin
Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

But somehow this didn’t seem right when we read a description of the ingredient that appeared in 1937 in William Tarling’s The Café Royal Cocktail Book: “An American liqueur. The flavour is a mixture of grapefruit and orange. Colour, a red flame. Sweet, with a bitter after-taste. High alcoholic strength.”

Martin Doudoroff on Cocktaildb.com traced the liqueurs lineage to Basque-born Louis Bustanoby, who owned the Café des Beaux Arts at 80 West 40th Street in New York before his untimely death, in 1917, at the age of 44 in his apartment above the restaurant. Opened in 1901, Bustanoby’s establishment was considered one of the city’s finest “lobster palaces”. The famed dining duel between Diamond Jim Brady and actress Lillian Russell took place there. But it was in 1911, that the restaurateur came up with the perfect business model: he added a dance floor in the cellar that employed “gigolos” to escort a new clientele through the latest dance steps. The most famous gigolo was the young and then-unknown Rudolph Valentino. 

His new clientele? Women. Bustanoby (nicknamed: Bust Anybody) installed the world’s first lady’s bar, a place where respectable women could drink the offerings of bartenders François and Gabriel, who catered to their whims. Sazeracs, New Orleans Fizzes, and vividly-hued concoctions where the most popular after an afternoon of shopping. As Françcois noted: "They wanted pearl-colored drinks, amethyst drinks, opaline drinks, and it keeps the establishment busy trying to think up new color combinations."

Even before the ladies’ bar was open, Bustanoby offered a Forbidden Fruit Cocktail—reputedly his own invention—so wives could savor a special sip whilst their husbands mused over a cognac or other strong digestif. We’ve only found one recipe for this libation in Boston restaurateur Louis Muckensturm’s 1906 book Louis’ Mixed Drinks:

Forbidden Fruit
Take half a grapefruit. Remove the pulp and turn the skin inside out, so as to form a small bowl. Put in two lumps of sugar and two liqueur-glasses of brandy. Set fire to the brandy, and when burnt pour the liquid in a liqueur-glass and serve while hot. For each extra person add one liqueur-glass of brandy and half a lump of sugar.

Muckensturm also detailed the recipe for an Orangine, which followed the same steps. Think of the character of the roasted-brown oranges used in a traditional Bishop recipe and you get the idea.

This seems like a very complicated drink to make in large quantities, which a restaurant like the Café des Beaux Arts would have commanded in its heyday. Its popularity was such that Bustanoby and his brothers Andre and Jacques started a side business, in 1905, bottling his cordial in a distinctive globe bottle with garnish gold ornaments.

Now Doudoroff further described this liqueur as a shaddock-based, while predecessors defined it as being of grapefruit origin. Which was right? The shaddock (citrus decumana) was allegedly named so because of British Royal Navy Captain Shaddock, who introduced the seeds of this Malaysian native to the West Indies in 1696. Not really a pomelo (citrus maxima or citrus grandis) not really a grapefruit (citrus x paradis), the shaddock is a rougher-skinned cousin that grows in Antigua, Grenada, Jamaica, and other tropical paradises. But was this the not-so-secret ingredient in the commercial formula?

It’s a possibility that it was. In a 1907 newspaper article titled “Real Forbidden Fruit” provides another clue to the citrus’s identity, stating that “The name forbidden fruit was given on account of the three dark brown stains, like finger marks, which invariably show on this variety of shaddock. The stains are close together on one side and are believed to be the marks of Eve’s fingers….” But the same article cautioned that: “Forbidden fruit is much liked by people who are able to get it fresh, so far it has not been shipped abroad as extensively as its cousins, the grapefruit and the shaddock.”

Not a grapefruit, not a shaddock, but a hybrid. The Manhattan restaurateur did own the city’s poshest lobster palace. It wouldn’t be a stretch for him to import such an exotic fruit. 

What was Muckensturm using in his takeoff of this beverage? Grapefruits had been cultivated in the United States since Count Odette Phillippe first planted them, in 1823, in Safety Harbor, Florida. Pink grapefruits were first discovered in 1906, while ruby grapefruits appeared in 1929. White grapefruits an exotic phenomenon that had only gained popularity during the late 1800s and without Bustanoby’s resources for purchasing ingredients that tickled the hearts of his fancy clientele, white grapefruits had to do.

Intrepid mixologist Eric Ellestad, on his Savoy Stomp blog, went to great lengths to replicate this secret recipe that when it passed from Bustonaby to Philadelphia distiller Chatam International after the former’s company went bust in 1921 was not as desirable, but was 100 proof (50% ABV)—there are some cognacs that proof that high! Ellestad missed pomelo season, so his macerated recipe goes like this:

Underhill Forbidden Fruit Liqueur
Peel from 1 marsh ruby grapefruit
Peel from 1 cocktail grapefruit*
Peel from 4 small blood oranges (golf ball size)
1 tablespoon cardamom pods, crushed
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
3/4 bottle vodka
1/2 bottle brandy
1/2 pound orange flower honey
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
Steep peels with spices in vodka and brandy for 2 weeks. Strain out solids and add 1/2 pound orange flower Honey and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Shake to combine. Let stand another week and rack off clear liquid from settled solids. Makes about 750ml.

Other bloggers have tried macerating starfruit and the pulp of the pomelo to recreate the supposed character. But all have been done without actually tasting a bottle.

Guilano Morandin at The Dorchester worked, in 2010, with the hotel’s pastry chef Robert Petri to make a version that could be used in Harry Craddock’s signature Dorchester of London Cocktail. A tasting of both Petrie’s fresh creation and a 1930s bottle of Forbidden Fruit, revealed that the post-Bustanoby liqueur was “not that citrus and…not particularly sweet at all.” Petrie’s version bore the character of vanilla, lemon, grapefruit, and honey.

Dorchester of London Cocktail
2 parts dry gin
2 parts Forbidden Fruit Liqueur
1 part Cuban rum
Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Our minds turn back to Muckensturm’s recipe as the preferred inspiration:

In a dry skillet, roast the peel of an organic pomelo or shaddock over a medium heat until it turns light brown. Cool and grind into a powder. In a small saucepan, combine the peel powder with 500 ml cognac. Simmer on a low heat until it is aromatic. Filter through a jelly bag or coffee filter and sweeten to taste with caster sugar. Add red food colouring like the Chatam company did to create the “red flame” colour of the later version. Bottle for future use.


Now it’s your turn. The best way to determine if this lost ingredient works for you is to make a few different versions like the ones we have just presented. Then see which one makes your customers smile.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. I wanted to make the Adam and Eve cocktail and was thrown by this ingredient. Now I've made my own!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for this post. I wanted to make the Adam and Eve cocktail and was thrown by this ingredient. Now I've made my own!

    ReplyDelete