As the year draws to a close, it becomes ever easier to find a reason to break out the bubbly. Not that Last Call has ever needed a reason, mind you. My current excuse? There's a new social club, Rose. Rabbit. Lie., opening in my favorite vacation haunt, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. They're doing all manner of obscure vintage cocktails on their list to go with the overall vintage theme of the place. I can't wait to get up there.
Since I'm not going to make it out of town any time soon, the best I can do is bring some of the party to my living room. The drink that caught my eye is the Airmail cocktail, which includes both bubbly and rum. How it took me this long to unearth something this suited to my personal tastes, I have no idea.
While many cocktails out there have intriguing stories behind their names, the Airmail's provenance is pretty simple. It got its name in the early 1940s. Back then, airmail was the gold standard method to get your message across, no matter where Point A and Point B were. To think, if the drink was invented in the 1980s it probably would have been named the Federal Express. I wonder, what would be the modern-day equivalent? Email? The urgent text?
Anyway, the Airmail is one of those many cocktails that doesn't have a definitive recipe, so have fun adjusting proportions until you find something you like. I like mine a little on the tall side. About the only thing I've found in common with every Airmail recipe is that lime juice and honey syrup are called for in roughly equal parts. But even then, nothing's sacred.
You might not yet be familiar with honey syrup. I prefer to call it Runny Honey because it makes it a more well-defined ingredient (how many different syrups do you already have behind the bar?), but more just because the rhyme makes it fun to say. If you've tried making cocktails with plain honey, you know why runny honey exists.
Straight honey turns into a solid lump when added to cool liquids, and does nothing more than stick to the bottom of your shaker if you try to mix it. To incorporate honey into a drink, it has to be already diluted. Just mix equal parts of honey and water, heat gently until they're fully mixed, then bottle it and store in the fridge.
Plain honey has more or less infinite shelf life (Honey found in ancient Egyptian tombs was still edible). Once diluted with water, it can spoil, so keep your runny honey in the refrigerator. On the other hand, if it does turn, you're now most of the way to making mead... But that's another column.
Airmail 1 ounce light rum 1/2 ounce lime juice 1/2 ounce honey syrup Champagne
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Shake rum, lime, and honey with ice. Pour without straining into a Collins glass. Top with Champagne, stirring gently to combine.
Honey Syrup (aka Runny Honey) 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup honey
Combine in a pan over medium heat. Stir frequently until fully combined. Bottle and store in refrigerator up to 1 month. Makes 1 cup.