This Fernet Milkshake Is the Best Summer Drink You've Never Had
Photo courtesy of Pépé Le Moko


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This Fernet Milkshake Is the Best Summer Drink You've Never Had

Nearly every libation tastes better in slushie form, especially this minty, milky, vintage cocktail named the Grasshopper from Pépé Le Moko in Portland, Oregon.

As the world gets unbearably hotter and hotter every damn year, it might be time to reconsider your perception of blended drinks.

It is a little-known fact that nearly every libation tastes better in slushie form, and by everything we especially mean the minty, milky, icy, vintage cocktail named the Grasshopper. Especially when Jeffrey Morgenthaler—yes, the same brilliant bartender who is recognized as starting the barrel-aging cocktail phenomenon—adds a shot of Fernet Branca to the already-rich drink and whips it up in a blender.


RECIPE: Grasshopper

Blended drinks went through a cloying, hangover-inducing, decidedly dark phase in history. However, having maintained popularity in New Orleans, New York, and pretty much every tropical locale, they are more than ripe for a comeback everywhere else. This bright green cocktail—complete with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream—has taken Portland, Oregon by storm since it was introduced at Pépé Le Moko in 2014 by Morgenthaler.


Jeffrey Morgenthaler

We caught up with the bartender veteran—sometimes lovingly known as "The King" by some people in the industry for his commitment and contributions—on a Monday afternoon to get the complete scoop on how he created the miraculous beverage. More importantly, to pick his brain on any other frozen drinks that he is currently working on. Spoiler alert: blended negronis.

As a lifer behind the stick, what do you think about blended drinks? I enjoy them and they've always been successful. Even when people were starting to shun those type of drinks a few years ago, they've always been [appreciated by] the mainstream audience—mostly because they are fun, which is the whole point of a blended drink. There is no other real hardcore, cocktail science-based reason for them to exist, other than them just being fun. They're great for hot weather because they're colder, but for the most part, the main reason for their success is because they are fun.

How did ice-blended drinks fall from grace? I think they went through a dark time of being served out of slushie machines and made with sour mix, things like that. I think that is why a lot of people dismiss them, too. But those days are over—you can do both. You can have a delicious drink that is both good and blended. It is not a mutually exclusive kind of thing.


How did you discover the Grasshopper? I've always been aware of it just from years of studying this stuff. I think I got most interested in it when I learned about the Wisconsin style of serving it. Traditionally, the Grasshopper isn't supposed to be blended; it's supposed to be shaken and served up. When I learned about the Wisconsin variation which is blended with ice cream, I decided to take another look at it.

We added some Fernet Branca to it to bump up the mint's depth, and then that was it.


Inside Pépé Le Moko

You've pretty much brought back that cocktail from the dead, and maybe even perfected it. How do you feel? It is pretty cool. The cocktail has been around since the 40s or 50s, and I knew that we were onto something when I tasted it. I'm glad that people have gotten into it but that wasn't really why I started serving it. We serve it—along with all of our menu drinks—because they're the sort of drinks I enjoy having.

The thing about any blended drink is that you can't just put it in a blender and blend it with ice.

Any other blended drinks that you've experimented with lately? Yeah! Last summer, my girlfriend and I started making blended negronis. They are spectacular during the summer when it is really hot and you just get home and have to turn on the air conditioning to cool down. We start those nights off by putting together a frozen negroni and it is fucking delicious, man.

Is slushie-fying a cocktail as easy as it sounds? The thing about any blended drink, especially with a negroni, is that you can't just put it in a blender and blend it with ice. It doesn't really work like that—you must adjust the recipe. What we did with the negroni was add the juice of a whole orange and some simple syrup, just to give it more body. If blended drinks don't have a good amount of mouthfeel and sweetness, they don't really end up tasting like anything. When I added the juice and syrup, it suddenly was this lush, wonderful drink. Almost like a tropical, bitter orange cooler, you know?


Do you think that blended drinks can become as big as the barrel aging cocktail trend that you spearheaded back in 2010? Probably. It is definitely more fun. We have a small bar and we make dozens of Grasshoppers every night. It is extremely popular. I think it just needs a little more momentum and more people to embrace them.

It'll happen.

Thank you for speaking with me.

This post was originally published in June 2016.