The Comeback of the Grasshopper Cocktail

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A request for a Grasshopper cocktail these days is a drama with two distinct acts. First comes the order, accompanied by giggles and a sense that one is knowingly indulging in a bit of retro kitsch. Second comes the flash of unexpected delight — surprise that an old fuddy-duddy cocktail your grandparents drank could taste so good.

“Whenever anyone orders a Grasshopper, there’s this funny moment of nostalgia of, ‘Are you really ordering that?’” said Linden Pride, an owner of ­Dante and Dante West Village in downtown Manhattan. “Inevitably, other people want a taste of the drink, and usually another one is ordered.”

Those who wish to participate in this dance between silly and sincere have many more options these days. The drink — typically made of the dessertlike combination of cream, crème de cacao and crème de menthe — is being added to more menus in cities across the United States. Some hew to the classic recipe, but most are giving the drink an updated spin.

Gage & Tollner, in Brooklyn, adds an ounce of vodka to the mix. The version at 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 the Italian amaro Fernet Branca.

Jewel of the South, a restaurant in New Orleans, throws in some Cognac. And a bar called the Grasshopper, in Long Beach, Calif., serves its marquee drink with a housemade coconut syrup.

The origins of the Grasshopper are murky. Though an oft-repeated story says it was invented in New Orleans in the early 20th century, the drink didn’t enjoy wide popularity until the 1950s.

Brian Bartels, an owner of Settle Down Tavern, in Madison, Wis., thinks the Grasshopper’s renewed relevance may be a reaction to the turmoil of recent times. “I think maybe people are embracing comfort more than ever, especially in the last two years,” he said.

John Troia, a founder of Tempus Fugit Spirits, a California distiller that makes a crème de menthe and a crème de cacao that are popular with craft cocktail bars, said the company has seen a 40 percent increase in crème de menthe sales since Covid arrived. “I’ve also seen an uptick in stingers popping up in cocktail programs,” he added, “so perhaps crème de menthe is having a bit of a moment.”

Mr. Bartels, a native of Wisconsin, where the Grasshopper has enjoyed a long life in the state’s many supper clubs, is a longtime devotee of the drink. “I will order a Grasshopper anywhere I see one,” he said. “That’s my Achilles’ heel.”

So he had accrued plenty 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 that the recipe is purposefully nonconformist.

At Emmett’s on Grove, a new restaurant in Greenwich Village with a supper-club ambience, the owner, Emmett Burke, has gone full Wisconsin, serving the sort of blended, ice-cream version of the drink that is popular in the Midwest. One drink requires a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream and costs $18.

“The trick with the blended Grasshopper is you’ve got to make it stand up,” Mr. Burke said. “If you blend it too much, it becomes like a smoothie.”

The drink at Cobble Hill Restaurant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, may be the most outlandish 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 over crushed ice and garnished with a tiny scorpion, fished out of bottles of a mezcal brand the bar carries.

With considerable understatement, Chad Vick, a bartender at the restaurant, said, “The formerly live scorpion is a fun talking point.”

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