Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ojen Frappe: Is It Worth It?


Blackened Out recently celebrated its 4th birthday. To celebrate, Peter and I threw it a superhero themed party complete with a Spider Man cake. You may not know that this here spot on the www got its start because of Ojen Frappes. I would back link to the article, but like hearing your own voice on an answering machine, it is painful to read.

Ojen was once made by a small family distillery in Spain. It is an anise flavored, sweet liquor, that over time became the official drink of Rex. The Ojen Frappe is nothing more than Ojen, a few dashes of Peychaud's bitters, and crushed ice. It is a delicious, refreshing drink. The legend goes, a member of Rex was entitled to one, and only one, Ojen Frappe before his ride to ensure a good ride.

Unfortunately, the family in Spain who distilled the potion, decided to get out of the liquor business as sales of Ojen had stalled to all but one market. As an aside, had the fmaily held on for the resulting cocktail and spirits boom, Ojen would likely be on the menu of every cocktail club from Brooklyn to Portland. Here is where the story gets interesting. Either Cedric Martin or Bill Goldring (have heard it attributed to both), flew over to Spain and asked the family to push out one more run of bottles. Cases of the stuff arrived and was squired away at the den of Rex, select restaurants, and Martin's wine cellar.


I bought a bottle in 2008 which lasted until the early part of Summer 2010. But now it seems, the city's supply of Ojen has run dry. Correspondence with Neal Bodenheimer of Cure revealed that yes, they had a bottle but it was in their Reserve case and would never be open. But he added that they were working with a historic spirits re-creator to begin producing Ojen once again. There was no Ojen at Luke, where Legend's first run-in with Ojen occurred. So I went to the last place I had Ojen (Christmas 2010), the Hermes Bar at Antoines.

"Nope, all out. Out. But I have a clone, that is pretty close," the waiter said, "called Anis del Mono."

The Ojen Frappe arrived with finely, chipped ice and the correct color. The candied fennel aroma jumped out of the glass. A sip. Texturally, perhaps a bit thinner than Ojen, which always had a high viscosity. I love the way an Ojen Frappe reminds me of the last quarter of a snowball. The way the ice and liquid turn into a seductive adult slush. The cold tempers the heat of the alcohol and the bitters cut the sweetness of the elixir. This had all of that.

Until and if Ojen returns, an Anis de Mono Frappe will do for my Mardi Gras drink of choice. But just one, of course.

"Ojen Frappe" at Hermes Bar - Yep.

4 comments:

Ryan Waldron said...

I have 3 different contenders for an Ojen substitute. Anise del Mondo, Moanari Sambuca, and Luxardo Sambuca. maybe y'all could join me for a taste off, as y'all are some of the folks that have more recently had true Ojen.

Pontchartrain Pete said...

As with Ouzo, Sambuca, and most other anisette-type liqueurs, I found Ojen too sweet and a bit flat, being only one note (anise) in flavor.

I like the classic absinthe frappe. Absinthe is a higher-proof spirit, and is not sweetened before bottling. It's more complex, made with at least 3 ingredients, fennel, anise, and wormwood—and, varying from brand to brand, usually several other herbs—making for a more herbaceous flavor profile than the single "licorice" anise note.

Nonetheless, I do like the Luxardo Sambuca (and even better, the Luxardo Maraschino) as a sweetener, rather than sugar or simple syrup, for my absinthe frappes, which I like to top with a few shakes of pink-inducing Peychaud bitters.

Maybe master distiller Ted Breaux could shake a few bottles of his top-shelf Jade Nouvelle-Orleans absinthe loose towards the School of Design den and plant the seeds of a new, Ojen-free, tradition.

$1.25 said...

Rene,

I happen to know of at least one other spot where Ojen is on the menu and the Ojen frappe can be made. I had one this past Friday.

Send me an email if you're interested.

Chuck Taggart said...

I've got two unopened bottles of Ojen left, squirreled away in the Chuck den, i.e. the former broom closet in my kitchen that now serves as a liquor cabinet. I remember when they'd have a stack of the stuff five cases high right when you walked in at Martin.

I'd also heard that Anis del Mono was a good substitute. Where are you getting it? Supplies seem to have dried up in L.A.; the spirits buyer at my regular place said he stopped ordering it because it wasn't selling, sigh.

Also, which variety are you using? I remember there being two -- dulce and seco (sweet and dry). If the dulce is sweet enough but lacks the viscosity of Ojen, maybe you could try the seco and add some gum syrup to sweeten -- simple syrup with gum arabic. That'll give you your viscosity and mouthfeel.

I let another Mardi Gras pass without opening one of those bottles, and after reading this they're calling out to me: "Hey. Why don't you drink me? This is why I exist." Maybe it's time for a taste test -- Ojen Frappé vs. an Anis del Mono Dulce Frappé vs. an Anis del Mono Seco Frappé with gum syrup vs. one or both Anis del Mono with a splash of absinthe Frappé ...