Friday, 9 August 2013

Dr. Funk: the Absinthe Tiki cocktail

Another Monday, another great meeting with bar staff, this time at The Hide Bar in London. It's what I like most in this role that I have developed for myself. Well, that and de-flowering absinthe virgins, but that's another story!

I think a good time was had by all: we started with Clandestinos and I saw that Rufus, the founder of the company that owns The Hide Bar was making an interesting absinthe cocktail at home several hours later.

But I was also on a quest to try a tiki cocktail containing absinthe that I had first read about nearly three years ago, and that is the .... Dr. Funk.

I had heard about this from Robert Haynes-Peterson, who is the national Spirits Examiner for the Examiner, and Drinks Examiner for New York. This is the recipe he posted in 2010 in Drinkology for Fashion Forum Magazine:

apparently from Trader Vic's, circa 1947. Well, not the La Clandestine absinthe part of it, which was Robert's suggestion!

Nastassia of The Hide made a Dr. Funk as shown above (but without the chimney glass or garnishes) and we all agreed that it worked very well. The colour is not so "girly," as to put off men, and it's actually quite a sophisticated drink. The general view was that the absinthe worked well; indeed we felt we could have used more absinthe.

There are certain elements of this drink that are interesting. Of course in 1947 there was no absinthe - officially at least in the USA. In fact most most of the online versions of the Dr. Funk recipe from around this time do seem to specify either Pernod (pastis) or Herbsaint. More significantly they - and most subsequent recipes - contain a lot more rum than absinthe/pastis. Typically a 5:1 ratio, while we were drinking a 2:1 recipe. Here's the one from the 1947 Trader Vic's Bar Guide:

It seems that Robert had adapted this original recipe to produce his version of the Dr. Funk, reducing the rum content from 2.5 to 0.5 oz and switching to absinthe and Robert and I agree that his version works really well. (Edit: noting the first comment, the revised version may be a little smaller than some Tiki cocktails. I suggest using the ratios suggested by Robert, but scaled-up as required).

However ... going back into the history of the drink, the first documented recipe reference is from the book "Mystic Isles of the South Seas" (1921) where you can read the following:-

"I had been introduced to a Doctor Funk by Count Polonsky, who told me it was made of a portion of absinthe, a dash of grenadine,—a syrup of the pomegranate fruit,—the juice of two limes, and half a pint of siphon water. Dr. Funk of Samoa, who had been a physician to Robert Louis Stevenson, had left the receipt (sic) for the concoction when he was a guest of the club. One paid half a franc for it, and it would restore self-respect and interest in one's surroundings when even Tahiti rum failed."

In other words, with a full portion of absinthe and with no rum at all, meaning that Robert's version, whether developed consciously or sub-consciously, is a good compromise between the original (1921) and the Trader Vic's (1947) versions!

There's more - much more - on the history of this fascinating and very enjoyable cocktail on the Pegu Blog and at Tiki Central. This time around, I'm going to sit out the talking and get on with making another one for myself. Manuia!

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