No, We Have Plenty of Bananas

So, a couple of weeks ago, when I should have doing something productive, I fell down a rabbit hole on Pinterest, looking at old sheet music. I don’t know why – I can’t read music, and I don’t play an instrument, but these were incredibly compelling. Pinterest sent me an email saying, “Hey, we notice you like jazz music. Have you ever seen these?”, and I was sucked in. Songs from the 1920s were often remarkable just for their titles, never mind their cover art, or their actual music:

“Swiss Cheese Rag”

“That Kleptomaniac Rag”

“I’ll Make the Pies Like Mother Made (If You’ll Make the Dough Like Dad)”

And then it happened.

I ran across the objectively greatest song title of all time:

Admit it – there never has been, nor will there ever be, a greater title for a song.

On top of that, everything about this cover leaves me with many, many questions.

Who are Macy and Smalle? Apparently, they didn’t write this song – Frazzini, de Frank, and Mills did that. Why are they on playing cards? Macy looks a little nerdy, but generally okay. If Smalle, on the other hand, got onto an elevator with you, you would get off on the next floor.

Why is the saxophone so huge?

Won’t the singer hurt his feet, standing that way?

This shows a jazz combo playing, but the arrangement is for a ukulele.

Why are the musical notes so scared and sad?

So. Many. Questions.

Anyway, later that day, I had driven my child down to skating lessons and I was talking to one of the other skate-moms at the rink (I’m one of two skate-dads) about this sheet music. I was so worked up about it that I opened my laptop and showed her the picture.

She didn’t buy it. She said it had to be a fake.

So, I looked it up on eBay. There it was.

We were both silent for a moment.

I looked at her.

She looked at me.

“I’m going to buy it,” I said.

“You have to buy it,” she said back to me.

So now, in a couple of weeks I will be the proud owner of some obscure sheet music. I think I’ll have it framed with UV protective glass and maybe put it up in the Living Room.

The issue, of course, is how to explain this to my wife, who will roll her eyes especially hard. I know this doesn’t sound like much of an issue, but she is an Olympic-level eye-roller. One day, her eyes will circle completely around and come up again from the bottom. I don’t want her hurting herself.

Someday, when both of us are gone, The Child will be cleaning out our house and his husband will stand, staring at a framed piece of sheet music on the living room wall.

“Um… what’s with this?” he’ll ask.

My child will put a hand on his shoulder, sigh, and say, “Yeah… never ask ‘Why?’ about my old man. It never leads anywhere productive.”

They’ll stand silent for another moment, then tackle cleaning out the liquor cabinet.

Which leads us to the intriguing world of banana drinks.

For this month’s drinks, you will have to do a little homework, namely making some infused alcohols. Infusing alcohol is one of those culinary party tricks that is so compelling to simple-minded people like me, that once you start, you will probably find yourself infusing alcohol with flavors that you had never thought about putting into drinks before. The process is incredibly simple, but extremely gratifying.

Here is what you’ll need for today’s drinks:

Banana Rum

1 Very ripe banana, the type you might use for banana bread. Have you ever noticed, when you walk into a convenience store, up near the cash register, there are individual bananas for sale? Some of them probably look pretty sketchy. You want the sketchiest-looking one. Pick it up, cradle it in your hands, and murmur to it, “Shhhh… It’s okay. You’re safe now”. This is patently untrue, but lulling your banana into a false sense of security will make this whole process easier.

2 cups White rum

Peel the banana, then muddle it thoroughly in the bottom of a large, wide-mouthed jar.

Add the rum, seal the jar, then shake vigorously.

Put the jar somewhere cool and dark. (I like to put it in the laundry room.) Shake it twice a day, for a week.

After a week, strain, filter, and bottle it.

This will give you a lovely, slightly cloudy rum that tastes of bananas, but is not terribly sweet.

Chocolate Rum

This is very similar to the previous recipe.

¼ cup/1 oz/30 gr Cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs are the raw ingredient for chocolate making. You can find them in an upmarket grocery store or online. I like ones from Guittard. They come with this warning:

In other words, just exactly what we’re looking for in this application.

2 cups White rum. (This recipe also works very well with vodka.)

Combine the cocoa nibs and rum in a large, wide-mouthed jar, seal, shake vigorously, then place in the basement or under the sink, with the banana rum.

Shake twice per day, for four days.

Strain, filter, and bottle, as above. (This is going to sound very familiar as you work your way through these recipes.)

Jalapeño Rum

This is so tasty and useful, that it is worth making an entire bottle’s worth of this rum. It is very useful in a wide variety of drinks. It opens up a really interesting string of possibilities for Bloody Marys, for instance.

4-5 Jalapeño peppers, roughly chopped. You don’t have to muddle them or anything; just chop them up and put them in the jar.

1 bottle of lower-shelf white rum. Seriously – any subtle flavors in an expensive rum will be overwhelmed by the peppers.

Combine the peppers and rum in a very large, wide-mouthed jar, shake vigorously, seal, and store next to the other members of your growing Rum Collective.

Shake twice daily. Taste it after four days. If it is hot enough and flavorful enough for you, move ahead to the straining and bottling. If you’d like to let it develop a little more character, taste it every day, until you are happy with it.

Sesame Rum (This is the last one, I promise)

½ cup/70 gr White sesame seeds

2 cups White Rum

Over medium-low heat, toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan. Stir/shake them constantly, until they have turned a tawny golden color, like a lion.

Add them to the rum in a jar. There will be a satisfying sizzle.

Seal, shake, store, etc… This one will probably take about a week, like the banana rum.

Strain, bottle, etc…

The Drinks:

Cocktail #1 – Modified Classic Daiquiri

There is a school of purists who feel slightly uncomfortable with the whole idea of banana or strawberry daiquiris. They are lacking in gravitas; they just seem too… smoothyish. For fundamentalists, a classic daiquiri is made of white rum, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and a little simple syrup.

That’s it. Nothing else.

By subbing out traditional rum with banana rum, you end up with banana flavor without being too sweet. There is a subtlety to the banana flavor. Hopefully, this variation provides a safe space between daiquiri ultraconservatism and blender drinks.

2 oz banana rum (see above)
3/4 oz Fresh-squeezed lime juice
½ oz Simple Syrup

Shake over ice, pour into a rocks glass, then serve.

Garnish? No! No garnish! What are you thinking of?

(Okay, actually, I probably would garnish this – with a plastic dinosaur or something – but we both know that you’re classier than that.)

Cocktail #2 – Banana Martini

2½ oz Banana Rum (See above)
1 oz Chocolate Rum (See above)

Add both ingredients to a mixing glass, half-filled with ice.

Stir gently, but thoroughly.

Strain into a chilled martini glass

Banana and chocolate is a classic combination. This martini provides a strong hit of that flavor, without too much sweetness. You will feel very sophisticated drinking this, if you can avoid the “You did what with a banana?” line of inquiry.

Cocktail #3 – The Banana Enigma

2½ oz Banana Rum (See above)
1 oz Sesame Rum (See above)
½ oz Jalapeño Rum (See above)
3 oz Pineapple juice
½ oz Lime juice
3 Cocktail Cherries

Add all liquid ingredients to shaker half-filled with ice.

Shake thoroughly. It helps if you think of the chorus of 1979’s “Boogie Wonderland” as you shake.

Pour everything, including the ice, into a tall glass and garnish with three cocktail cherries.

The banana flavor in this drink isn’t as attention-grabbing as the sesame and jalapeño, but it lends a lovely background to a refreshing, very drinkable cocktail.

Bonus Cocktail

“Okay,” I hear you saying, “those all sound very nice and it’s cute that you have a hobby, but what if I’d like to drink something banana-y this afternoon?”

I’ve got you covered. It’s a riff on a classic Dark & Stormy. You will have to go to the bodega to pick up some soda, but including travel time, you can be wrapping yourself around one of these in less than an hour.

Raised Eyebrow

2½ oz. Dark rum – Meyers’ or Pusser’s
Juice and carcass of ½ lime
Banana Soda, to top

Mix with ice in a tall glass and garnish with insouciant laugh.

Banana, lime, and rum all get along well together (worryingly well, if you spend too much time speculating about their personal lives). This is not a well-balanced, sophisticated, grown-up, cocktail party drink. It does not try to be. It is, however, distressingly drinkable. You could easily find yourself drinking many more of these than you planned to, then taking a nap, listening to a playlist that causes your teenage children considerable emotional discomfort.