by Darcy O'Neil on October 2010
Here's a drink that is very popular, but doesn't get much recognition. Of course there are a number of versions of this cocktail, some being nothing more than 151 proof rum and tropical fruit crystals, which will probably kill you. Aside from that "killer" version, the one I'm talking about is sometimes referred to as a Canadian Killer Koolaid, and is made with vodka, amaretto, melon liqueur and cranberry juice. This is by far the best version and the one that I remember drinking many years ago in college. After the rum and coke and whisky sour, this was probably the first cocktail I drank. At the bar I still recommend this one frequently and people are always happy to drink it.
In the world of cocktails there are a few drinks, such as the Martini, Manhattan and Margarita that are elevated to classic status. Part of the reason is that these cocktails are in a class that can be considered the geriatric ward of the cocktail spectrum. That's not a bad thing, but just because a drink was invented over a century ago doesn't mean it is the be-all and end-all of cocktails. True, these drinks are well balanced and eschew sweetness in favour of strength at classic proportions. But, if you look at a well made Killer Koolaid you will also see that this drink is well balanced. Sure it has Koolaid in the name, which usually means "flavoured sugar water" but the cocktail isn’t that sweet.
Discussing this cocktail makes me feel like a lawyer representing a client at the Classic Cocktail Consortium membership hearing, discussing credentials and pedigree.
President: Mr. Koolaid is an impostor and could not be considered an elite “classic cocktail.”
Me: Why not, he tastes good and has been around for many years.
President: Because for starters Mr. Koolaid doesn’t contain vermouth!
Me: Mr. Daiquiri and Miss Margarita don’t have vermouth.
President: Mr. Koolaid is not of the proportions of a classic cocktail, and that’s why Mr. Daiquiri and Miss Margarita are. Also, Mr. Koolaid doesn’t contain bitters.
Me: But Mr. Koolaid has a classic flavour, you are discriminating because he is part cranberry juice and slightly sweeter than your classic definition of a cocktail. And by the way, cranberry juice is naturally bitter, so maybe bitters aren’t required.
President: We do not discriminate based on spirit, colour or flavour. Simply put, Mr. Koolaid is a girly drink meant to be chugged at college frat parties and by people who have simple tastes. Mr. Koolaid does not have the pedigree required for entry.
Me: Simple tastes! I object! If Mr. Extra Dry Vodka Martini can be considered a classic cocktail, and he literally has a simple, if not down right boring taste, then my client should tower above Mr. Extra Dry Vodka Martini in terms of flavour. Vodka tastes like nothing, and if “nothing” can be a classic cocktail, my client should surely be allowed entry into the Classic Cocktail Consortium. I’ve also seen lots of sophisticated people chug martini’s, it ain’t pretty!
President: Over ruled! Mr. Extra Dry Vodka Martini is an upstanding member of the Classic Cocktail Consortium and we do not appreciate you attacking our members. Mr. Extra Dry Vodka Martini has vermouth, and that qualifies him to be a member.
Me: The Consortium has discriminated against cranberry since membership started. Miss Cosmopolitan has suffered the same treatment. She easily out sells Mr. Gin Martini and Mrs. Sidecar, but yet she has been refused entry because she is made with cranberry juice! Admit it Mr. Consortium President, you hate cranberries!
President: Order Mr. O’Neil! Your outbursts are not helping your clients application. Also, we have nothing against cranberries, or any fruit for that matter. We have lots of members who have fruit juice in them, for example Mrs. Bloody Mary and Miss Singapore Sling. Miss Cosmopolitan is a drunken floozy who made many advances on members of this esteemed panel. Her only goal is to get girls inebriated! Her behavior is not appropriate for this exclusive club.
Me: Isn’t the tomato a vegetable?
President: No, a vegetable is considered to be edible parts of a plant, such as leaves and stalks. A fruit is developed from the ovary in the base of a flower, which is how a tomato grows. The strawberry is another example.
Me: oops, my bad.
President: Mr. O’Neil, do you have any other additional information that would allow us to considered Mr. Koolaid for membership into the Consortium?
Me: Mr. President, my client isn’t as bad as you make him out to be. To many times poor bartending skills make this drink weak and dilute. Miss Margarita suffers the same problem. It’s not Mr. Koolaid’s fault, if he is made right, the combination of cranberries and almond is excellent. Who knew those two flavours combined so well. The addition of melon liqueur provides another flavour level that highlights the drinking experience and is complimentary. The cranberry juice has a bitterness that makes bitters irrelevant in this cocktail. Also, cranberry juice isn’t very sweet so a small amount of sugar is required to balance the cocktail and this is provided by the two liqueurs. The vodka makes the cocktail strong without being overpowering. As you can plainly see this cocktail is all about balance.
Sure Mr. Koolaid is a little easier going than other classics like Mr. Old Fashioned, who really needs to loosen up by the way. We respect that your organization takes its role seriously, but just because a cocktail is fun and goes down good on a hot summer day, shouldn't exclude it from membership.
If created properly, by a caring bartender, this drink could easily be considered a classic. Unfortunately, to many people confuse Mr. Koolaid with the college frat party koolaid made using Everclear industrial ethanol (Alcool in Canada). It is a case of mistaken identity, my client is properly balanced with unique flavours and subtle bitterness. I urge you to consider Mr. Koolaid entry into the Classic Cocktail Consortium. Thank you.
President: We'll take this application under advisement.
And that's why cranberry cocktails aren't considered classics yet.
Killer Koolaid Recipe
1 oz Vodka
½ oz Amaretto
½ oz Melon Liqueur
Top Cranberry Juice
Build in a tall ice packed glass. You should use no more than 3 to 4 oz of cranberry juice. Garnish with a lime and serve.