I usually don’t like people when I first meet them, but not Sam. On the afternoon of Montreal Bar Vs. Chef, us competitors, which included said Sam, took a written test about contest sponsor Appleton rums, then we had a break for dinner. Sam strode up to me and asked in a friendly sort of bellow if I’d like to come have dinner with them. I didn’t know who them was but I said sure. Turns out that Sam is one of those folks who can make conversation with a relative stranger quite a pleasant experience, which is probably just one reason why he’s so well-suited for what he does.
Sam, who tends bar at Barbu but does not sell seashells by the seashore, started his presentation with a corny joke that fell flat — something about the pun that is this cocktail’s name, what with the rum from Jamaica and the getting-high like we like to think Jamaicans do a lot and the… well, you get it. Luckily, it was all uphill from there as Sam suavely concocted this most elegant libation.
I was quite shocked by the simplicity of what Sam presented, considering that we were up against dry ice and test tubes and coconut shells and ingredients set ablaze. The Appleton is the only booze in the glass, and he stayed a half-ounce under the contest’s two-ounces-of-hooch-max rule. Probably he was the only one who used less than two ounces. Sacrilege!
As Sam puts it, “Everyone tends to go complex in cocktail competitions. Mostly when they cannot infuse alcohol in regular bar situations, they go all out when they can! [Ed. Note: In Montreal, it is illegal to serve infused alcohol. Don't even get me started.] I tend to go the other way and focus on the presentation. (oral and of the cocktail). [Ed. Note: I think that parenthetical was a bit of wobbly English on Sam's part, but you get what he means. And p.s. that's what she said.] From my experience, I don’t think any judge will give a lesser note if a cocktail appears simpler if the overall balance is present.”
And so say all of us, Sam! Sam finished second in the competition, woot! Even better news for us, so long as you’ve got a juice presser at home — for the smallish apricot, one of these would suffice — his drink is easy to replicate chez vous.
The Jamaican High Thyme
1 1/2 ounces Appleton Estate Reserve
1 ounce apricot syrup
2 ounces freshly pressed apricot juice
1 raw egg (or the equivalent amount of raw egg white)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 sprigs of thyme
1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
Combine rum, apricot syrup, apricot juice, lemon juice and the raw egg white from one egg into a shaker.
Do a dry shake — this is where you shake your liquid ingredients without ice. It’s often recommended to first do a dry shake when dealing with raw egg white, and thanks to Sam for reminding me of such. For extra-fancy dry shaking, remove the coil from a standard strainer and drop it into the shaker first along with your ingredients, which acts like a whisk for the egg white.
Muddle a sprig of thyme in the bottom of the shaker. Add ice and do a second (“wet,” i.e. regular) shake.
Strain into cocktail glass, add dash of Peychaud’s and garnish with a second sprig of thyme across the lip of the glass.