Cocktail of the Month: The Laughing Leprechaun

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May your Irish eyes be smiling, your leprechauns be laughing and you find a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow!

While St. Patrick’s Day is one of America’s favorite drinking holidays, it can be challenging for the cocktail connoisseur who doesn’t want an Irish car bomb or a sickeningly sweet, artificially green-colored premixed drink.

Don’t despair, help is on the way. D.C.’s legendary superhero mixtress Gina Chersevani is here to save the day with her sidekick, the Laughing Leprechaun. Not a real-life leprechaun, but rather a liquid one.

Chersevani had several sources of inspiration for her tipple. At the core of the drink is the complex Kilbeggan Irish whiskey, aged in bourbon barrels. Its flavor profile includes hints of jellied fruit, summer red berries and glazed cherries.

Even though this is an aged spirit, she describes it as having a “fresh flavor.” In order to highlight this, she drew from the classic formula of a whiskey (or Tom) Collins: spirit plus sweet plus lemon plus soda. The cocktail is served in a Collins glass and garnished with a brandied cherry and an orange wheel like its predecessor.

To keep with the holiday spirit, she also wanted an essence of green, so she chose green apples. She used apple skins and made them the base of a rich, tart simple syrup that gives the drink its pizzazz. Apple makes the subdued fruity tones of the whiskey shine through.

If you want to replicate this signature ingredient, you should start with one and a half pounds of green apples. Peel them in one-centimeter strips, leaving a little bit of white intact. Place the peels in a pot along with half-cups each of water and sugar, the zest of one lemon and a whole peppercorn. Bring to a boil and rest. Let it cool, then strain. I love the idea of using a peppercorn to provide a subtle liveliness.

The end result is not green, color-wise, but rather a cool golden hue like of a pot of gold. As for the laughing moniker, Chersevani says it reflects the super breezy spirit of the cocktail, which she describes as “giggle water.”

The cocktail is featured at Buffalo & Bergen and the groovy Suburbia, both located at Union Market. To keep with the Irish spirit, you can pair it with an open-faced corned beef sandwich at B&B. Or, Chersevani suggests, pair it with another Laughing Leprechaun. You don’t want your leprechaun to be lonely, do you?

Laughter aside, this drink was created with a higher purpose. Chersevani is the chair mixologist for DC’s Taste of the Nation 2018, taking place April 9 at the National Building Museum. The event will feature bite-size dishes and drinks from the hottest restaurants. Proceeds benefit No Kid Hungry’s efforts to fight childhood hunger in D.C. and across the country. She is passionate about this cause, which she says is “humongous” in the area, where you have “wealth and poverty living next to each other.”

Chersevani is a fierce opponent of food waste. According to USA Today, Americans throw away billions of pounds of food each year, enough to feed millions of people. At her restaurants, she has a strict policy of using every part of the food, from “leaf to root.” For example, with apples, not only does she utilize the skin, but the seeds are used to make cocktail bitters.

Leprechauns, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, only come out one time a year. So if you don’t have the chance to capture a Laughing Leprechaun before March 17, you can catch one at Taste of the Nation and support a worthy charity. To find out more, visit events.nokidhungry.org.

The Laughing Leprechaun

2 oz. Kilbeggan Irish whiskey
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. green apple syrup
Soda
Orange slice
Brandied cherry

In a shaker tin, add Kilbeggan, lemon juice and apple syrup. Fill 3/4 full of ice and shake. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with soda and garnish with orange and cherry.

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