Daisy de Machito
Updated: Mar 7, 2022
The last of my contributions to Pouring Ribbons' Cuba 1958 menu were collaborations, this one between myself and current GM Brooke Toscano. The final menu did a great job of showcasing a wide variety of cultural icons and events, as well as taking classic Cuban cocktails and reimagining them not just as vehicles for Cuban rum, but as templates for contemporary cocktails.
1958 saw a young Cuban named Francisco Grillo, better known as Machito, fuse two distinct styles of music into one with the release of his album "Kenya." Machito defined modern Cuban music by combining traditional Afro Cuban beats with New York-style Jazz. He would go on to be a great inspiration to jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, and, to this day, his music comes to mind when one thinks of Cuban music.
In the Daisy de Machito, fruity, smokey Mezcal plays against savory Icelandic Aquavit, providing a surprising base for fresh yellow bell pepper and caramelized pineapple, while a touch of Yellow Chartreuse ties the whole thing together. Vegetal and tropical are not typically found in the same cocktail glass, but then again, Cuban and Black American music weren't found on the same record until Machito and The Afro-Cubans came along.
Daisy de Machito recipe
1 oz Amaras Verde Momento Mezcal
.5 oz Brennivin Aquavit
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Caramelized Pineapple Syrup
.33 oz Yellow Bell Pepper & Pineapple Syrup
.25 oz Yellow Chartreuse
Garnish: Dehydrated Pineapple & Yellow Bell Pepper Maraca
Whip shake with crushed ice and dump into the glass. Top with crushed ice. Garnish with yellow bell pepper maraca skewered through the center of a torched, dehydrated pineapple wheel (step-by-step instructions below).
After successfully building a cocktail around the Miles David record Star People, I was excited to work on another jazz-inspired drink. Machito's "Kenya" provided the perfect inspiration. Considering the way he combined Afro-Cuban music with New York jazz, I thought it would be a fun idea to do a smash.
2 oz base spirit (just about anything is fair game here)
.5 oz simple syrup
Half a lemon, cut into quarters
6-8 mint leaves
Moving along with my half-baked idea for the template, I flipped through a Cuban cookbook for flavor inspiration. I chose to focus on pineapple and yellow bell pepper, a combination I relied on as a crutch when I first started bartending. Mezcal and agricole rum provided a split base. I experimented with a variety of fresh herbs to attempt to emulate savory Cuban mint. Maybe it was going to be spicy?
In short, I had too many ideas and lacked a focused vision of the completed cocktail – I didn't know what to dial in. I worked on this drink for weeks, going through dozens of variations before I decided to scrap the whole thing.
Meanwhile, Brooke Toscano was working on a drink based around a pineapple scrap syrup, but hit a wall and nixed the idea.
Three days before the menu submission deadline, in the middle of Friday service, Brooke noted the new menu had zero drinks that used Chartreuse. This seemed odd for a bar known just as much for its vintage Chartreuse collection as its cocktails. I suggested whipping up a Daisy de Santiago to see if we could draw inspiration from that.
Daisy de Santiago
2 oz Cuban white rum
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
.25 oz Simple Syrup
After refreshing ourselves on this overlooked Cuban classic, I suggested swapping the rum for mezcal. We replaced the simple syrup with Brooke's caramelized pineapple syrup and threw my yellow bell pepper syrup into the tin for good measure. It was delicious but needed one more layer of complexity to balance the Yellow Chartreuse and yellow bell pepper.
We scanned the back bar. I immediately reached for the agricole (as if I hadn't already learned my lesson), but Brook suggested the Brennevin. We split the base and dialed the Chartreuse back a smidge, shook it, and served it for the staff to taste. Done. One of the most harmonious, natural collaborations I've ever worked on.
Amaras Verde Momento Mezcal
To be honest this was equal parts menu placement and equal parts the right mezcal for the job. This approachable, softer mezcal allowed the Brennevin to really assert itself.
The caraway and anise in the Brennevin play well with the Yellow Chartreuse and yellow bell pepper, providing a spicy, savory backbone. While we never figured out a way to explain why a Scandanavian spirit was in a tropical, Cuban-inspired cocktail, trying the drink side-by-side both with and without the aquavit made it clear it belonged.
Provides crucial acid to a drink with almost an ounce of syrup and sweet Chartreuse.
Caramelized Pineapple Syrup*
Rich and smokey, this syrup was designed to help close waste loops in the bar. The Cuba 1958 menu was heavy on pineapple juice and this was a great way to utilize the husks and cores. Essentially, all of the pineapple scraps were placed in a pan with sugar and cooked until the pineapple browned and the mixture turned to caramel. The heavy viscosity provides crucial body.
Yellow Bell Pepper & Pineapple Syrup**
Pouring Ribbons typically used Boiron fruit purees to ensure batch to batch consistency. This ensured drinks would taste the same at the start of the menu as the end. Unfortunately, every brand of yellow bell pepper puree we could get our hands on was bland and flavorless.
Thankfully, bell peppers were in season for the majority of that menu's run so we had access to some awesome produce. Fresh bell pepper is a must. The scant amount of pineapple juice brightens and echoes the caramelized pineapple syrup.
Plays well with literally every other component of the cocktail and is essential in calling back to the drink's Daisy de Santiago inspiration.
Strega would be a good substitute, but the profile of the drink may skew toward the anise, especially if using an aquavit with pronounced anise.
Dehydrated Pineapple Wheel*** & Yellow Bell Pepper Maraca
Remember when I mentioned how every drink I had on this menu involved some elaborate garnish? This one was no exception, though I can only take half the credit/blame.
Machito often played the maracas when he performed so I wanted to allude to that somehow. I bent a small cookie cutter out of shape and used it to stamp fresh bell pepper "maracas" to order (you can also simply cut them out by hand). Having a bit of bell pepper as an aromatic really helped play up the bell pepper on the palate. The scraps of the bell peppers were collected and used the following day to make fresh yellow bell pepper syrup.
Brooke had the idea to dehydrate thin slices of pineapple to create a flower to tie into the “daisy” name. We hit the pineapple with a brief torch (this allowed it to be shaped into the flower) before the bell pepper was skewered through it.
*Caramelized Pineapple Syrup
250g pineapple waste (i.e. cores, pulp from juicing)
250g white granulated sugar
125g hot water
Combine 250g white sugar with 250g chopped pineapple waste in a pan over medium heat. Stir regularly to ensure even heating, coating, and melting. Eventually, the sugar will liquify. Continue stirring to prevent burning. When the sugar begins to bubble, lower the temperature slightly and allow the sugar to brown. As it nears a rich, caramel color, add the hot water, and remove from heat. Stir the water in until it is completely emulsified with the pineapple caramel.
Strain the pineapple waste and save it because it's now a delicious candy (unless you used the inedible skins). Between the remaining water content of your scraps and the additional water, your final product should have the consistency of a 2:1 sugar syrup.
[Yields 12oz of syrup.]
**Yellow Bell Pepper & Pineapple Syrup
250g yellow bell pepper (stemmed and seeded)
250g granulated white sugar
60g pineapple juice (about 2 oz)
2g sea salt
Combine yellow bell pepper and pineapple in a blender and blend into a puree. Add the sugar and salt. Blend hard until the puree fully emulsifies. This works best in a blender with enough power to slightly warm its contents (e.g., Vitamix). [Yields 12oz of syrup.]
***Dehydrated Pineapple Wheel
Remove the skin of a pineapple and slice half centimeter thin wheels. Place in a dehydrator set at 165 for 8 hours or until browned and slightly leathery.