In 1723, Jacques Savary des Bruslons informed readers of his Dictionnaire universel du commerce that native Brazilians — before Europeans came on the scene — were the most robust of all men, seven feet tall, and at the age of 100, they were no more decrepit than Europeans aged merely 60 years. However, he noted, ils ne vivaient que de maïs, d’oranges et de sucre — they lived on maize, oranges, and sugar. French merchants made fortunes on that Brazilian sugar and, in the process, some developed a taste for a Brazilian cane spirit called paraty (par-a-CHEE).
The dry shake, as practiced today, is a straightforward technique used to emulsify egg whites in drinks. Some think it’s new; it’s not. First, some portion (and sometimes all) of the cocktail’s ingredients is put in a shaker with the egg white. Then the bartender seals the shaker, shakes hard to emulsify, then re-shakes with ice, and pours the drink in a glass. It may or may not be strained into the glass, depending on the drink — and the bartender. The result is a velvet-textured drink with a foamy head made of very fine bubbles.
The technique Babinski (or Ali Bab, as he was known) recommends is different. Paraty — named for a colonial-era town of the same name in the state of Rio de Janeiro — was rough stuff for drinkers used to fine French brandies (though God knows some calvados could strip the paint off a barn door). It had what Ali Bab referred to as l’odeur empyreumatique, a “burned” smell, possibly from using direct-fire stills.
As anyone who has ever truffled eggs in the shell, refined homemade wines, or cleared soup stock or boiled coffee knows, egg whites can be used to absorb odor and trap particulates in liquids for easy removal. This is the same idea. Mixing egg white with the “burned” spirit, then straining the mix before using it in a cocktail, helped to remove some of the objectionable odor — which, seemingly, native Brazilians did not mind, even those who lived to a hundred years and stood seven feet tall.
Once softened and strained, the spirit was approachable for goût francais and could be blended with lemon juice, pineapple syrup, and bitters.
Cachaça imported today in the United States and western Europe generally does not need such taming. Leblon, for instance, works just fine without the strained egg white treatment. Some of today’s moonshine, though, could benefit from a bit of last-minute polishing…
From Ali Bab’s 1950 Gastronomie Pratique:
20 grams of paraty,
10 grams of lemon juice,
10 grams of syrup of pineapple,
5 drops of Angostura bitters,
1 egg white,
Zest of one lemon.
Mix the paraty and egg white in a glass, which has the effect of mitigating some of the paraty’s burned aroma: shake it all for a few minutes, then strain.
Put the strained paraty in a shaker with lemon juice, pineapple syrup, angostura bitters, crushed ice, shake to chill; pour into a cocktail glass, squeeze the lemon zest over the drink and serve with small straws.And the original for those whose French is better than mine:
Cocktail au paraty
Le cocktail au paraty est particulièrement apprécié au Bresil. Sa composition intégrale nous semblerait trope forte. En voici une adaptation au goût francais.
Pour chaque personne, prenez:
20 grammes de paraty,
10 grammes de jus de citron,
10 grammes de sirop d’ananas,
5 gouttes de bitter angostura,
1 blanc d’oeuf,
Zeste d’un citron.
Reunissez dans un verre le paraty et le blanc d’oeuf, qui a pour effet de mitiger un peu l’odeur empyreumatique du paraty: agitez le tout pendant quelques minutes; filtrez.
Mette dans un shaker le paraty filtré, le jus de citron, le sirop d’ananas, le bitter angostura, de la glace pilée; secouez pour glacer; passes dans un verre à cocktail, ajoutez le jus du zeste d’un citron et servez avec des petites pailles.