Firpo’s Balloon

Moving right along, here’s another exemplar of the Baker, Jr., ouvre: The Absinthe Bomb. But more about that in a moment.

The recipe for Firpo’s Balloon happens to come with a typical Baker yarn, redolent with colonialism and the first person plural:

Our college mate C. Byron Spofford, at the time American Commercial Attaché in Calcutta for all of India, Burma and Ceylon, once gave a dinner celebrating the farewell of a very opinionated pair of men wished on him from Russian Famine Relief Headquarters by Herbert Hoover. We seem to recall their names as being Sabine and Renshaw, but that doesn’t matter—it didn’t then, and it certainly doesn’t now. The thing that does matter is that Firpo mixed us a special round of Balloons—named because the 5th one consumed is guaranteed to set us bobbing about up under the ceiling. Firpo’s is Calcutta’s one smart night spot. It was all very gay in spite of the Hoover syncophants.

One wonders how Baker felt about the End of Empire. He musn’t have been pleased.

Anyhow, the recipe:

  • 1 jigger rye whiskey (1 1/2 oz Wild Turkey Rye)
  • 1 jigger Italian vermouth (1 1/2 oz Carpano Antica Formula)
  • 1 jigger absinthe (1 1/2 oz Kübler)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp egg white (1 egg white)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s No. 6)

Shake with ice and strain into champagne saucer.

Drinking this wretched mess was like being beaten over the head with a bottle of absinthe. I couldn’t bear more than a few sips. I did, however, try creating a modified version that tones the absinthe way, way down:

  • 1 1/2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 1/2 oz Italian vermouth
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 dashes (20 drops) absinthe

Quite a difference! This version really shows off the rye, and it tastes surprisingly mild given the strength of its base ingredients. It’s not actually good, mind you, but it is at least not repulsive.

How many more drinks like this will I encounter as I work my way through The Gentleman’s Companion? The answer, I fear, is “a lot.”

Firpo's Balloon (Original): ★☆☆☆☆ 

Firpo's Balloon (Modified): ★★☆☆☆ 

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