Cocktail recipes

Airmail

| By François Monti

This is the simplest of drinks: rum, lime, honey shaken until perfectly mixed, poured into a flute and topped up with champagne.

What about rum and champagne? Well, there's a cocktail we love.

In 1919, a few months before prohibition kicked in in the United States, articles started to appear in American newspapers, commenting that champagne meant for New York was ending up, in vast quantity, in Havana's harbour. What were Cuban cantineros doing with all the extra doses of bubbly delight? Well, of course, they served it as the French winemakers intended it: straight, in champagne glasses or flutes. It remained the main mode of consumption. Then as now, it was the status drink of party-minded people with disposable income.

However, Champagne Cocktails were already long established, so the cantineros were bound to experiment a little bit. ‘El arte de hacer un cocktail', a book published in 1927, highlights the versatility of champagne: one finds a proto-Bellini cocktail, a drink mixing Reims proudest achievement with Cuban best-selling beer, or the Perfecto, a Champagne Cocktail made the Cuban way – with lime and pineapple to complement the bitters and the sugar.

All very nice and dandy, but we're looking for something else. What about rum and champagne? Well, there's a cocktail we love. It's not entirely forgotten but, sadly, it's widely ignored. It's called the Airmail and it was probably created in the early 30's. It's the simplest of drinks: rum, lime, honey shaken until perfectly mixed, poured into a flute and topped up with champagne.

Now, some people define it as “a Daiquiri with champagne”. We don't want to nit-pick, but we're reminded of another drink: the Canchánchara. You'll remember that the Canchánchara was probably born during the independence wars against Spain and might even have been invented by the African slaves toiling and sweating on sugar plantations. This quintessential Cuban creation was made with readily available ingredients: aguardiente or rum; cane juice, honey or molasses; lime and water. Whoever came up with the Airmail kept the base and ‘upgraded' it to transform it into a more sophisticated sipper. It highlights the changes the country went through in little over 40 years.

Our readers might also remember a drink we featured last year, Audrey Saunders' modern classic, the Old Cuban, a short Mojito with Champagne instead of Soda. New York bartenders have been toying around with substituting the former for the latter for quite a while, so much so that Champagne has become ‘their' soda water. Quite obviously, Cuban bartenders thought about it a few decades before. The Cantineros still have a lot to teach us… Remember: next June, you might just get the opportunity.

 

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Airmail

 

30 ml Havana Club 3 años Añejo

15 ml Honey

15 ml Fresh lime juice

Champagne

 

Add all ingredients except champagne in shaker. Shake over ice and strain into flute. Top up with champagne and garnish with a lime twist.

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