What do you get when you mix alcohol and deadly African snakes? Drunk
FEATURE by Aidan Morgan
Prairie Dog’s readers have questions about Regina’s mixology scene. How many mixologists does this city boast? How mixologically skilled are they? What percentage of Regina’s mixologists wax their moustaches? What the hell is a mixologist?
And most importantly, how well do they fare when someone wanders into their bar and asks for an imaginary drink?
For the sake of context, that someone was me and the imaginary drink was the Orange Boomslang.
The (non-alcoholic) boomslang is a species of venomous snake that lives in Sub-Saharan Africa. The name is Afrikaans for “tree snake,” which means that the animal would have been called a Baumschlong if Germans had set up shop in South Africa instead of a bunch of Dutch farmers. Aside from having a fabulous name, the boomslang is noted for its slow-acting but potent venom, which causes headaches, sleepiness and horrible hemorrhaging to death. The boomslang’s best-known victim was herpetologist Karl Schmidt, who decided to record the effects of the bite instead of administering an antivenom. Researchers now know not to do that.
The actual boomslang is not orange, but I wanted an orange-tasting drink.
I devised a set of (completely arbitrary) rules to impose some kind of order on this boomslang bacchanal. First: I would introduce myself and let the bartender know that I was about to ask for a nonexistent drink. Second: I would agree to drink whatever the bartender set in front of me without knowing any of the ingredients beforehand. Third: I would repeat the word “boomslang” as often as necessary (this rule turned out to be crucial).
Rules in hand, Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth and I went boomslang hunting. Here are the results.
The O’Hanlon’s Half-Slang
MIXOLOGIZED BY: Ashley Rankin
INGREDIENTS: Smirnoff, Grand Marnier, watermelon liqueur, vanilla, ice, lime wedge
STEVE’S TAKE: “Needs more boomslang”
Our first attempt brought us face-to-face with the fundamental question at the heart of the quest: what, exactly, is boomslang? What combination of flavours and alcoholic punch constitutes the essence of boomslang? Could O’Hanlon’s deliver that boomslang feeling?
The answer is a qualified yes. The vodka delivered the necessary alcoholic component and the Grand Marnier brought the orange to the party, but the watermelon and vanilla didn’t quite round out the drink enough. It felt as if something was missing from the mix — more sweetness, maybe, or more citrus. More — dare I say it — boomslang.
Also worth noting: mixologist (and occasional Prairie Dog contributor) Ashley Rankin hates snakes. HATES.
THE VERDICT: A good summer patio drink that’s almost a boomslang.
The Tropical Boomslang
ESTABLISHMENT: Flip Eatery
MIXOLOGIZED BY: Joel Schneider
INGREDIENTS: Bacardi White Rum, Cointreau, St. Germain, pineapple juice, fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh cranberry juice, orange zest
STEVE TAKE: “Tastes like … staggering”
“Hi,” I said. “I would like a drink that doesn’t exist.”
That is a terrible way to start a conversation with your bartender. But that’s how I did it at Flip, because a) I’m awkward at the best of times, and b) the effects of the first boomslang were already unraveling my synapses, so why not start with interrogating the ontological status of my order?
“Okay,” said the bartender.
“It’s an orange boomslang,” I said.
“An orange boo-what?”
“Got it. A boomsling.”
And so it went.
Despite some initial difficulties with the name, the staff at Flip were more than game (they were uber-gamey!) to create a cocktail on the spot, and after some impressive flipping, pouring and shaking, we were presented with two exceedingly orange drinks. They were fresh, citrus-y and sweet, the kind of drink you order repeatedly on a patio or a beach chair until your legs cease to work.
It was practically the Platonic ideal of the summer drink. I would have ordered another, but the night had at least one more boomslang waiting to strike.
THE VERDICT: A nerve-swaddling good time of a drink.
The Handlebar Boomslang
ESTABLISHMENT: Capitol Jazz Bar
MIXOLOGIZED BY: Andrew Biss
INGREDIENTS: Grand Marnier, Bulleit bourbon, Galliano, orange juice, tropical mix, Orgeat syrup, candied ginger soaked in chili syrup, orange zest
STEVE’S TAKE: “Help me I’m ngghhphhhhzzzz”
According to the sandwich board sign by the door, the Capitol Jazz Bar makes the best old-fashioned cocktail in Regina. The establishment makes no claims about the quality of its boomslang, but I can attest to its quality and its slow-but-lethal payload of inebriation.
After several minutes of conferring with the other bartender and maybe even consulting his carefully shaped moustache, Andrew brought us two tall drinks with a creamy orange colour and an arabesque of candied ginger garnishing the top. The drink had an almost chocolatey flavour riding on top of the citrus, with a slightly alarming alcoholic afterbite. “Hey,” it tells you, “don’t forget how much straight-up booze I’m carrying.”
Towards the end of the drink, strands of candied ginger found their way up my straw, which brought back traumatic memories of the first time I tried bubble tea.
Of all the boomslangs I’d ordered, the Capitol had created the most complex and interesting drink. We followed it with an old-fashioned, which had spherical ice cubes. For the next half hour we imagined ways to make spherical ice cubes, which should have been a sign of our inebriation.
THE VERDICT: A boomslang with a moustache.