Add all ingredients (as cold as possible) to an iced tumbler
Stir gently to combine
Garnish with a lemon wedge
Featured Glassware: Octavie Tumbler by Villeroy & Boch
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When life gives you lemons, as the old saying goes, you make lemonade. Unless you live at Casa 12 Bottle Bar, in which case you make half a gallon of sirop de citron. Straight off the lad’s birthday party and heading into the preparation for our man Lars’ 40th (a cocktail-centric bash, of course), we had a need for a good deal of what has become one of our favorite syrups to keep on hand – but not so great a need that we didn’t sit there, staring into the yellow abyss, wondering what else we could conjure out of that tart goodness. Given that the Super Bowl is just around the corner – and that sirop de citron takes three days to make – we figured we’d kick off the week by taking the official beverage of hard-working, broad-shouldered football fans everywhere – beer – and French it up a bit. Good idea, right?
Now, before you accuse us of being the Anti-James Burke and making connections where they just don’t belong, I think that we have some very good legs to stand on here. Granted, the French-football connection would have been stronger had the Saints made it all the way (a moment of silence for Lars and our friend Tiare), but if we had to have a runner-up team with a historic French bent, we could do no better than the New England Patriots. In fact, outside of Louisiana, New England boasts the largest concentration of French speakers in America. In Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, French is the second most-common language behind English. In 2010, New Hampshire was also America’s biggest beer-drinking state, so we’re feeling pretty good about the French-Beer-New England angle we’re taking here. Plus, we have a ringer – simultaneously sealing our argument and providing the name for today’s drink – in one Richard Tardits, who – had he not been French and played in the NFL at all – would earn a mention during our Year of the Doctor for his glorious surname alone (we’re thinking Time And Relative Dimension In Total Sacks — or, maybe not). Sometime, the fates just smile on you.
In a story told by Sports Illustrated in 1988, Richard Tardits was a 19 year-old Frenchman who journeyed to Augusta, Georgia on vacation and soon became fascinated with the American game of football. Having enrolled at the University of Georgia in Athens, Tardits was surrounded by an extremely football-focused culture. When he learned that, if he could make the team, his college education would be paid for via scholarship, Tardits decide to try out for the squad.
“When he first came here, it was almost—almost—a joke,” recalled Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator Bill Lewis. But, with his size (6’ 2” and 200 lbs.) and speed, Tardits soon found his place on the team – and in the sport – as an outside linebacker. More importantly, Tardits found himself exceptionally gifted at sacking opposing quarterbacks, and during his time with the Bulldogs, he set a college record for the most sacks in a career – a record that would stand until 2004. After college, Tardits was a 5th round draft pick for the Phoenix Cardinals, although he would quickly go on to spend the bulk of his brief NFL career with the second-most French team in the league, the New England Patriots. There’s not much else to mention about Tardits’ short tenure except to say that he played just long enough – his career cut short by injury – to become vested and earn an NFL pension. In recent years, Tardits, well-educated and seemingly endlessly optimistic, has become an entrepreneur and Super Bowl commentator for French TV. Most importantly, for our story, he strengthens the French vein running through the Patriots, and gives us proper fodder for today’s drink.
Taking its name from the moniker Richard Tardits’ earned for himself while with the Bulldogs, “Le Sack” answers the unasked question of “How do you take good, old American beer and make it more French?” Okay, not really. The inspiration for this one came simply from the acknowledgement that at Super Bowl time, beer is king. But how could we take a traditional mug of beer and, without putting too genteel a spin on things, create something new and decidedly tasty. As mentioned above, sirop de citron is a magical bit of alchemy with which we’ve fallen in love since we first brewed up a batch for our Marvel Cocktail. You’ll find the recipe if you follow that link, but the process is no more complicated than tossing sliced lemons in sugar and leaving everything to set for three days. Trust us when we say that the results are more than worth the little effort involved.
Lemon and beer have a long history together – one with which few could completely argue – and when lemon is paired with a lager as suggested here (we used Red Stripe), the result really shines. The MVP of the mix, however, is the scant bit of absinthe. Absinthe, in beer? Absolutely! Not only is a shot of absinthe poured into a glass of beer apparently enjoyed in Italy (we say apparently because, while the Internet tells us so, we have yet to witness the practice), brewers have been known to release absinthe-infused beers. While some of these latter bottlings, such as Brasserie du Mont Blanc’s La Verte au Genepi — with its verdant color – clearly fall into the gimmick category, other brewers such as Colorado’s Avery Brewing are experimenting with aging beer in former absinthe barrels. Here, in “Le Sack”, the absinthe provides a beautiful licorice note while the sirop balances out the middle ground between the beer and the spirit. Feel free to tweak the proportions to suit your taste, but note that too much sirop will send the drink off the sweetness charts. As always, balance is key.
Of course, should Le Sack smack of beer heresy to you, simply enjoy your brew the traditional way. The nice thing about the drink is that, if made by the bottle, there’s no big up-front commitment. If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party, your guests can have the option of Frenchifying things or not, and should they choose the Gallic route, all that’s required are a few quick pours and a simple stir. We encourage you to try Le Sack, however, because you never know where life is going to take you unless you make the occasional leap – like a Frenchman trying out for the Georgia Bulldogs. To which, we say “Vive Le Sack!” and “Go Patriots!”