Over the years I’ve been writing this column I have, on several occasions, been asked if I ever run out of ideas. Fact is, I usually have some cocktail or general theme in mind – since I read a huge amount of libation-related information on the internet and even in old-fashioned magazines. Quite often, however, that one idea is insufficient to flesh out a whole column. And, then, in all honesty, I do sometimes encounter writer's (drinker's?) block. Amazingly, however, it always seems that an incident will occur, shortly before press time, that provides me with an idea that will make a complete and – hopefully – interesting column. Such was the fortuitous dinner my wife and I shared with friends a few days ago.
We were invited over for a delicious meal. After a finishing slice of Key lime pie, our conversation turned to cocktails (I don’t know why this tends to happen when I’m around). Our host, out of the blue and, as the saying goes, "apropos of nothing," asked if I liked Galliano. I hesitated; I actually had not thought of this liqueur in eons.
You may not have thought of it either – but you very likely have seen it. It’s the fluorescent yellow liqueur in a tall skinny bottle that reminds me of a Roman column. It's usually a bit dusty and often prominently situated for effect in the back row of bottles at a bar. The bright color and elongated bottle catches the eye, but in recent times doesn’t translate into its use in cocktails. That wasn’t always the case.
Created in 1896 by an Italian brandy maker named Arturo Vaccari, Galliano is one of those anise concoctions that are so popular in Europe. Yet, despite containing two types of anise, star and Mediterranean, Galliano differs from its licorice-flavored cousins Sambuca, anisette and Pernod. The reason? Galliano has a healthy dose of sweet vanilla added in, along with a secret mix of woodsy herbs and a smidgeon of citrus. The result is very tasty on its own or in some cocktails that were popular in the past – and deserve another look.
1 oz. white rum
½ oz. Galliano
½ oz. triple sec
½ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
Add all ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until well-chilled. Strain into a martini glass. A lime spiral would make a nice, but optional garnish.
This is the most basic recipe for this vintage cocktail, that many say owes its name to the song by Harry Belafonte (and others). If you have any steel drum or calypso music you should break it out when you serve up this delightful drink. Even better, check out YouTube and watch Vivian Vance in “Lucy Goes Hawaiian” sing this number in 1971 dressed as a yellow bird on a perch-like swing. No kidding.
Many cruise ships on Caribbean itineraries serve Yellow Birds, often adding orange juice and something I find incredibly distasteful – crème de banana. But it’s your call: straight forward or enhanced. It’s certainly a taste of the islands – even in your own backyard.
If you remember the ‘70s you might have a recollection of the Harvey Wallbanger, a drink with an odd name but a simple history. To make one you just add some Galliano to a traditional screwdriver. We were too busy trying to figure out the electric slide to make complicated drinks I guess. Ahhh … the 1970s. Play some disco while sipping this one.
4 oz. orange juice
1-½ oz. vodka
½ oz. Galliano
Pour the OJ and vodka in a Collins glass with ice.
Top with the Galliano, carefully pouring it over the back of a spoon so it floats on the surface.
Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.
This creation was the “it” drink for a just few years, and like "Saturday Night Fever," lives on in our minds.
Finally, Galliano is the key component in a drink with a romantic back story. It seems a couple, newly engaged, stopped at a small dive bar called Poor Reds in Eldorado, Calif. The happy folks went in and asked the bartender to create a special drink to celebrate their engagement. After a bit of thought the bartender grabbed a bottle of Galliano, some half-and-half, and a little crème de cacao and whipped up a concoction the celebratory couple found delightful. Since it was a novel drink and had no name it was decided to call it a Golden Cadillac – because that’s what the future groom was driving.
1 part Galliano
1 part half-and-half
1 part crème de cacao
Place all ingredients in a blender with ice. Blend on low speed until frothy. Pour a portion into a coupe glass (for her) and the rest in a sidecar (for him).
I have no idea why the Poor Reds bartender used two different glasses. For that matter, I’m a bit leary of the idea that a couple in a “golden” Cadillac would stop to celebrate at a dive bar. Or that the bar stocked crème de cacao. And were there no other customers? The barkeep just had plenty of time to create an original cocktail for this couple he’d never laid eyes on before – and then get all fancy and sexist with the glassware?
I guess it’s best not to question legends involving alcohol. After all, there’s every chance whoever told the story had been drinking.