The Bilbo Baggins

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A simple cocktail, this drink befits the fictional character it is named after.  From a distance, it looks like nothing more than water.  Well, perhaps cloudy water.


“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”
“I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

J.R.R. Tolkein, The Hobbit (1937)

 
Without agitating the cocktail, id est stirring, the drink looks very much like a plain and simple glass of water; by means of agitation, it slowly becomes cloudy thanks to the sugar content in the Cointreau.  As such, if you want the drink to be deceptively plain, do not stir or mix the cocktail except by pouring both ingredients simultaneously from a mixing glass over the ice.  It will help keep the beverage crystal clear.

The drink was created at Bar Hemingway in 1994 by Colin Peter Field (Field 116).  As Colin writes, he wanted to create a cocktail that was linked with his all time favorite adventure novel, and so he took the idea of Bilbo Baggins as the base (Ibid).  Bar Hemingway has a lot of historic literary connections, which makes sense that Colin would continue the trend by creating a cocktail after a literary masterpiece such as the Hobbit (1937).  Since Hobbits are peaceful creatures, as the quote demonstrates rather clearly, this drink is reminiscent of a Hobbits’ attitudes (Ibid).  However, I think it goes further than this, since Hobbits are individuals who like their lunches, their ales, their socialization. It is a drink which packs quite a wallop, and would be best served as an after dinner drink on account of the alcohol content.  Plus, since Hobbits are known for eating quite a bit, this drink suits them as a perfect and simplistic after dinner drink, filled with nice floral notes, orange on the mid palate and finish, and a delightful earth-like tendency thanks to the Pisco I used. 

Pisco is an interesting ingredient.  Originating from Peru, Chile and Bolivia, Pisco is an aromatic brandy made mostly from muscat grapes (if it is from Chile) or Quebranta (if from Peru), similar to Bolivia’s singani (Robinson 532; Jackson 102).  While Colin calls for Pisco Control specifically, I use Pisco Ocucaje, which is a Puro Pisco from Peru; Pisco Control is from Chile, and is actually the most popular Pisco in Chile, with an annual sales of 23 million (Schumann 240).  When made in Chile, it is grown in the region of Santiago de Chile in specific demarcated region; it is then aged in oak or clay jars after the distillation process (Ibid).  In comparison, Pisco produced in Peru, while still regulated by where it can be produced, is aged in materials which will not alter the physical properties of the product (Jackson 101-102).  The Quechua word for bird, Pisco was once made and transported in beeswax-coated amphorae produced by that very tribe from Peru to other regions (Ibid 102).  The beverage started gaining popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s thanks to the popular brand Inca, which had an Indian-head shaped bottle (Ibid).

Just like other spirits, Pisco comes in a variety of different flavors, ranging from earth like, to floral.  I am less familiar with Chilean Pisco than Peruvian,but I can say that Peruvian comes in a few different major styles, with the most common being Puro and AromaticoPuro uses specifically one type of grape, Quebranta, where as Muscat is the common type found in Chilean Pisco.  Puro does not allow for a blend between grape types, while there is Acholado, which can be blended between various styles of grapes.  Even disregarding the controlled variable of the grape type, the Pisco can have very different flavors depending on aging processes, the land from where the grape was produced, and various other factors.

“To say that Bilbo’s breath was taken away is no description at all. There are no words left to express his staggerment[…]”

J.R.R. Tolkein, The Hobbit  (1937)

The Bilbo Baggins:

1 1/2 ounces Pisco Control
1 ounce Cointreau

Combine the ingredients in an Old Fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.

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DeGroff, Dale. 2008. The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.

Field, Colin Peter.  2003.  The Cocktails of The Ritz Paris.  New York: Simon & Schuster.

Jackson, Michael.  1995.  Michael Jackson’s Bar and Cocktail Companion: The Connoisseur’s Handbook.  Originally published 1979.  Philadelphia: Running Press.

Schumann, Charles.  1991.  American Bar.  New York:  Abbeville Press Publishers.