A request for a Grasshopper cocktail is a drama with two different acts these days. First comes the order, accompanied by giggles and a sense of being consciously engaged in a bit of retro kitsch. Second comes the flash of unexpected pleasure — surprise that an old fuddy-duddy cocktail your grandparents drank could taste so good.
“Every time someone orders a Grasshopper, there’s a funny moment of nostalgia of, ‘Are you really ordering that?'” says Linden Pride, an owner of Dante and Dante West Village in midtown Manhattan. “Inevitably, other people will want to taste the drink, and usually another one is ordered.”
Those who want to participate in this dance between crazy and sincere have many more options these days. The drink — usually made from the dessert-like combination of cream, crème de cacao, and crème de menthe — is being added to more menus in cities across the United States. Some stick to the classic recipe, but most give the drink an updated twist.
Gage & Tollner, in Brooklyn, adds an ounce of vodka to the mix. The version in Etérea, in the East Village, is called a Saltador (Spanish for “jumper”) and brings mezcal into the mix. Dante uses Branca Menta, the minty cousin of Italian amaro Fernet Branca.
Jewel of the South, a New Orleans restaurant, throws in some Cognac. And a bar called the Grasshopper, in Long Beach, California, serves its marquee drink with a homemade coconut syrup.
The origins of the Grasshopper are obscure. Although an oft-repeated story says it was invented in New Orleans in the early 1900s, the drink didn’t enjoy great popularity until the 1950s.
Brian Bartels, an owner of Settle Down Tavern, in Madison, Wisconsin, thinks the Grasshopper’s newfound relevance may be a response to recent turmoil. “I think maybe people are embracing comfort more than ever, especially in the past two years,” he said.
John Troia, founder of Tempus Fugit Spirits, a California distiller that makes a crème de menthe and crème de cacao that are popular at craft cocktail bars, said the company has seen crème de menthe sales rise 40 percent since the arrival of covid. “I’ve also seen an increase in stingers in cocktail shows,” he added, “so maybe crème de menthe is having a moment.”
A native of Wisconsin, where the grasshopper has enjoyed a long life in the state’s many supper clubs, Mr. Bartels has been a long-time enthusiast of the drink. “I will order a Grasshopper anywhere,” he said. “That’s my Achilles heel.”
So he had gathered a lot of wisdom when he decided to come up with his own rendition. His take combines crème de menthe, crème do cacao, Kahlúa, vodka and almond milk, and is topped off with freshly ground black pepper. He admits the recipe is purposefully nonconformist.
At Emmett’s on Grove, a new Greenwich Village restaurant with a supper-club vibe, the owner, Emmett Burke, has all done Wisconsin and served the kind of mixed ice cream version of the drink popular in the Midwest. One drink requires a pint of vanilla ice cream and costs $18.
“The trick with the mixed Grasshopper is that you have to make it stand up,” Mr. Burke said. “If you mix it too much, it becomes like a smoothie.”
The drink at Cobble Hill Restaurant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is perhaps the most bizarre interpretation. Called the Scorpion and the Grasshopper, it brings vodka, mezcal, Branca Menta, absinthe, and mint to the usual formula. The drink is then served with crushed ice and garnished with a tiny scorpion fished from bottles of a mezcal brand the bar carries.
With much understatement, Chad Vick, a bartender at the restaurant, said, “The formerly living scorpion is a fun topic of conversation.”