by Blake Stilwell
The Drink of Drinks, the Drink of Presidents, the “Alcoholic Equivalent to a Mugging; Expensive and Bad for the Head”… It could only be:
According to the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy, the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is an alcoholic beverage invented by ex-President of the Universe Zaphod Beeblebrox, and is largely considered to be the best in the Universe. The effects of drinking one will soon become apparent.
Luckily for us and the world of theatrical comedy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has been given the screen treatment twice in the past thirty-odd years.
The actual (fictional) recipe for a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (don’t worry, like the Hitchiker’s Guide says: There are many voluntary organizations which will help to rehabilitate you after you’ve had one) is as follows:
- Take the juice from one bottle of Ol’ Janx Spirit
- Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V — Oh, that Santraginean seawater! Oh, those Santraginean fish!
- Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzine is lost).
- Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in memory of all those happy hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.
- Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin Zones, subtle, sweet and mystic.
- Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.
- Sprinkle Zamphuor.
- Add an olive.
- Drink… but… very carefully…
I’ve been drinking for a long time. And I’ve been drinking in a lot of places. I have a lot of experience. Interpreting a beverage that fits the description shouldn’t be too hard, so a liquor store run (or two) and a free Saturday night was all I was waiting for:
- The base of the drink. This has to be Absinthe… It’s not just the green (or ungreen) color. The Ol’ Janx Spirit Rhyme went: “Oh don’t give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit/ No, don’t you give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit/ For my head will fly, my tongue will lie, my eyes will fry and I may die/ Won’t you pour me one more of that sinful Old Janx Spirit”… Now, I don’t know what liquor makes my head fly faster, further, or longer than good ol’ Absinthe (Try doing shots of Absinthe for a night. The vivid dreams alone are worth the high price tag). Absinthe had a bout a hundred years of being banned in the US, but in 2007, it made a comeback. The market is a pretty good. Sadly, US absinthe doesn’t seem to be as potent as people in the good ol days used to describe. This is because of limits on distilling, specifically to the content of thujone, the special ingredient in the distilled wormwood that makes absinthe special… and mind bending. Personally, I recommend Turkish absinthe. But if you’re stuck in the New World, good ol’ Canada has the answer. There are no limits to thujone content in New Brunswick or British Columbia.
- Seawater must mean the drink has some kind of clam juice… I prefer to believe this means tonic water or selzer. I could not drink a beverage that mixed licorice with clam juice.
- If the drink has to contain Benzene, then your only choice is bottled Sprite. It surprised me too that the US government actually has limits on benzene formation, despite the unlimited amount of non-food big business can call food these days. But the Megagin angle tells me maybe this just means the best gin out there, which is of course, Hendricks. For the purposes of experimentation, I picked up both.
- The use of Marsh Gas must mean the drink is fizzy, which works with the Sprite or Tonic Water.
- There are many flavors that could create a hypermint flavor… Creme de Menth, Rumpleminz, Peppermint Schnapps, or ideally Marie Brizard Green Mint Liquor. I chose mint schnapps, because I went to a few stores and not a one carried Marie Brizard.
- Judging by the effects of the ingredient, I’d say the Suntiger’s teeth are best replaced by Angostura Bitters, which was originally used to mask the taste of quinine in the tonic water of gin and tonics, and is a great natural accompaniment to gin anyway. It could also be grenadine, judging by the description of its appearance, but I would rather it be benedictine, which sounds like a great foil to the absinthe. the color of all three will sure spread around the glass, creating that effect (note, when I did start mixing, adding the lemon extract would create the all-around fizzing effect throughout the drink, which, admittedly, was pretty cool).
- Zamphour could be sugar, which would make this sort of an absinthe frappe-mint julep (more on that later). Or it could be lemon extract, or lemon zest. I got all three.
- God I hate olives, I prefer lemon peel
Attempt 1: Absinthe, tonic water, Hendrick’s Gin, mint liquor, and Bitters – This does not taste like lemon. And it is super strong. I was right about the Absinthe, but this tastes more like licorice.
Attempt 2: Lighter on the Absinthe, made up for it in tonic water, extra pull of gin, same mint, and a dash of benedictine. Added lemon extract… Much smoother. Much more lemony. It has a very nice, refreshing citrus-y mint aftertaste.
Attempt 3: 2 parts absinthe, 2 parts tonic water, 1 part sprite, 1 part mint liquor, drops of lemon extract – Very cool, not as refreshing, but a nice aftertaste. Still has the arak-like flavor of the absinthe as most dominant feature.
Attempt 4: 1 part absinthe, 2 parts tonic water, 1 parts sprite, mint liquor and full part of Benedictine, drops of lemon extract – This time it had the effect of the lemon drops fizzing a spreading throughout the drink, as described in the recipe. nifty. On the whole, it’s kind of weak but a decent lemony-licorice flavor. Not much mint, though.
Attempt 5: Everything, f**k it, just everything, which is more ingredients than what’s listed, but as I discovered…
This was a lemony-mint dream that hit like a ton of bricks and evoked the proper response:
Seeing as how I am not a 30-ton mega elephant with bronchial pneumonia, there was a limit to the experimenting I could do. I feel confident this last drink had the appropriate effect and flavor. There are also many terrestrial places in the US and Canada who have come up with various versions of the PGGB, with varying degrees of similarity to Douglas Adams’ dream beverage.
But honestly, what sounds more and more like the intent of the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, the tried and true earthbound equivalent, has to be the Absinthe Julep:
Sunday morning update: I’m off to find that rehab. I’m pretty sure it’s a cup of coffee and greasy food.