Day 58: Nouveau Nectar
About two years ago, I was living in New York, overseeing the bars for a couple restaurants in the East Village of Manhattan. Among the systems I was brought on to put in place, we also decided to bring back and expand upon a tradition the restaurant had done before. Every Tuesday, we brought in a guest bartender, and they made drinks from a new menu I would write, based off which brand sponsor we had that week. It was a pretty fun program, and every week had a completely different theme. One week, I had one of my best friends fly in from New Orleans, to do a Big Easy inspired menu, with some Haitian Clairins. Among the flavor notes we wanted to hit with this menu, one thing kept coming up in conversation, New Orleans Style Nectar soda.
Welcome again, my most thirsty readers. It's another day in this new life of home cocktails and social distancing. I've mentioned childhood nostalgia from a lot of different angles over this adventure, but I don't think I've touched on any particular memories, where food and drink are actually concerned. As children, many of us remember that favorite soft drink we would get excited to have. Fizzy sodas, though commonplace today, can trace their roots back to drug store soda fountains, where now-lost flavors were in abundance.
In the days before your favorite sodas came from cans and bottles, the only way to enjoy that sugary glass of fizz-bubbles was to go out to your local ice cream parlor, drug store, or diner. First patented in 1819, the soda fountain absolutely changed the way people enjoyed beverages. The soda flavor, of that bygone era, with perhaps the most contested origins is the one simply known as nectar.
A fierce debate once existed, between New Orleans and Cincinnati, as to who first made the original nectar soda. Given the information I've been able to dig up, my vote goes to New Orleans' Issac Lyons. His nectar soda syrup appeared in 1866, a full twenty six years before the first claim by Cincinnati's John Mullane, in 1892. Origins aside, this was the very obvious base for what we know today as a red cream soda.
Now the nectar, once sold in New Orleans, has all but disappeared in soda form. It's been given a second life as a syrup flavor for snowballs, the quintessential summer treat of the Crescent City. Pretty much every snowball stand, had nectar flavor in some form. It's almost an unwritten rule, and it's something you're just expected to have.
Having grown up far from the south myself, I obviously didn't have this same connection to this sugary treat. I certainly didn't have memories of nectar ice cream floats, as my friend remembered from childhood. After some tooling around with different flavors, we found a familiar taste in our trusty Peychaud's bitters. With the sun finally shining in my neighborhood again, it felt like a great time to share.
1.5oz Clairin Sajous
.5oz Passion Fruit Liqueur (I use the Giffard Fruits de la Passion for this, but passion fruit syrup can work. Just keep in mind, it will have a much heavier texture)
.5oz Peychaud's Bitters
.5oz Lime Juice
.75oz Coconut Cream
Small Coupe or Nick & Nora Glass
Shake vigorously and double strain into a chilled glass.
Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
*If the mouthfeel on this comes across a bit rich for your taste, I have done lengthened versions of this with a bit of seltzer, taking that soda fountain feel a step further.*
I don't see anything wrong with enjoying something sweet and fruity today. With everything happening around us right now, I think you've earned a bit of an escape, especially when rhum is involved. Stay sane my friends, and I'll be back with more tomorrow. Will it be tropical? Will it be stirred? There's only one way to find out, so keep shaking.