Any skill I’ve developed over 20 years of home cooking has not yet translated to drinks. I am most certainly not a mixologist. Outside of the occasional holiday Bloody Mary (I use a store-bought mix), the stainless steel Boston shaker set at our house doesn’t get much use at all. So when I had an insatiable hankering for a Grasshopper recently, doubt was the first emotion. Could I pull it off?
The traditional Grasshopper involves a shot of cream with crème de menthe, an atomic green mint-flavored liqueur, and the clear, chocolate liqueur known as crème de cacao. This combination is shaken on ice and then served either on the rocks or neat like a martini. However, in the upper Midwest (where people yell “more power!” at the mere thought of heavy cream), a Grasshopper includes vanilla ice cream blended with the two shots and an optional (read: not optional) scoop of whipped cream to top. The resulting concoction is a boozy Shamrock Shake. In either preparation, the Grasshopper is a sweet, minty, and deceptively potent drink.
As a Wisconsinite, I am most familiar with the blended version. I’ve rarely had the courage to order it public for fear of inconveniencing the bartenders. Unless you’re at a place playing a lot of steel drum music churning out piña coladas and daiquiris by the hour, the blender is not something that is front and center at most bars. I’ve only seen the drink ordered (and I’ve only consumed it) at a supper club, where the clientele of older regulars and the overall special-occasion atmosphere leads one to order something whimsical like a Grasshopper. But even then it seems like an inconvenience; I’ve heard tell of surly barkeeps quipping, “Does this look like a [redacted] Baskin Robbins?”
Both my inexperience making mixed drinks at home and my hopelessly Midwestern fear of burdening service workers meant that I had quite a hill to climb if I was going to satisfy my hankering for a good Grasshopper. But sometimes hankerings lead to courage.
I bit the bullet and decided to make a blended Grasshopper, ice cream and all. More specifically, I wanted a slightly thin milkshake-like consistency that wouldn’t require a spoon, because a drink should be sippable. The color of any good Grasshopper should be pistachio pudding green, and the potency ought to be noticeable but not unpalatable. I hoped the assembly wouldn’t be too daunting, especially since I’m now the proud owner of a barely used bottle of both crème de menthe and crème de cacao and neither one is a particularly versatile part of my home bar collection.
On my first attempt, I used one shot of each liqueur and two scoops of ice cream. I ran the blender for about 15 seconds; the result was a little too runny, so I snuck in another scoop and blended again. Still no luck. Taste-wise and color-wise it was what I expected—aggressively minty and slightly green—but the consistency was disappointing. There was also a slight head and separation to the mixture, which is never the case at supper clubs. I was frustrated, because not only was the whole batch subpar, but washing out the blender was a minor inconvenience that carried the sting of defeat.
The second time around I adjusted my technique, eschewing the blender completely and opting instead for the handheld immersion blender. I started off with the same ratio (one shot of each liqueur and three scoops of ice cream) and blended in a bain-marie because of its narrow diameter and high walls. To ensure max frostiness, I chilled the bain-marie ahead of time. After 30 seconds of blending I could see the consistency I desired: it was thicker but not overly thick, and everything was evenly incorporated. I couldn’t have been happier, especially since the cleanup was pretty minimal compared to the blender. To reiterate the “not a home mixologist” point, I don’t have any martini glasses, so I enjoyed my Grasshopper in an iced tea glass.
Since I had crème de menthe and crème de cacao to spare, I pretended to be not from Wisconsin and made the cream-based version. My neglected Boston shaker made a cameo, with the resulting concoction shaken and poured over ice like a White Russian. This was really simple to prepare. And—gasp!—it was my favorite of the three. I didn’t have to worry about achieving the proper consistency, and the ice cubes helped make the potent drink a little more sippable. With the immersion blender and a chilled vessel, though, the ice cream version was spot on, and I recommend trying both.
It’s time to mention that three Grasshoppers on three consecutive nights is a lot of cold and minty. This is very much a special occasion drink—quarterly seems about the right cadence—that will lose its novelty if enjoyed too frequently. To my knowledge, there is no saying about how “a Grasshopper a day” keeps doctors away, even in Wisconsin.
- 1 shot crème de menthe
- 1 shot crème de cacao
- 3 scoops vanilla ice cream
- Whipped cream (optional)
Use an immersion blender to combine the first three ingredients until the mixture resembles a slurry. (Alternatively, you can use a blender; blend lightly for no more than 15 seconds.) Serve in whatever fun glass you have. Top with liberal amounts of whipped cream, or not much at all. It’s your choice.
- 1 shot heavy cream
- 1 shot crème de menthe
- 1 shot crème de cacao
Combine all shots with ice to be shaken or stirred. If you don’t have a shaker, use a small pitcher. Pour into a chilled glass or serve on the rocks.
(Tip: If you make each of the above recipes to serve a crowd, you stand a chance of actually using up those liqueur bottles someday.)