Friday Night Cocktail: Airmail

Airmail cocktailI don’t make cocktails with sparkling wine very often, because good sparkling wine can be expensive, cocktails alone rarely use the whole bottle, and it tends to lose its fizz too fast if stored. But sometimes you just need the effervescence that only sparkling wine can provide.

We first tried the Airmail cocktail at Beretta in San Francisco a few years ago, and for my husband in particular, it was love at first taste. As David Wondrich notes in his Esquire column about the drink, its origins are murky, which may be one reason the ratios vary so widely in the recipes I consulted. I like to make it as a honey Daiquiri (also known as a Honeybee) that’s slightly too sweet, then top it with the wine, on the rationale that the wine has a drying effect. Feel free to play around with the amounts of each ingredient until you find something you like.

To make this drink, you’ll first need to make some honey syrup, because pure honey does not readily dissolve in cocktails. You’d think all that shaking would encourage it to get friendly with the lime juice and rum, but alas, no. (Believe me; I’ve tried.) Honey syrup is easy to make, though, and can be made in any amount: simply mix equal volumes of honey and water, stirring to dissolve. If it’s being reluctant, warm it in the microwave for a few seconds to help it along. Excess can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but it’s simple enough that it’s worth making it whenever you need it. Just be sure to use a good flavourful honey.

How to make an Airmail cocktail

  • 1.5 oz. aged rum, such as Barbancourt five star, Bacardi 8 or Havana Club 7
  • 1 oz. honey syrup (as above)
  • 0.75 oz. lime juice
  • Sparkling wine: Champagne if you can afford it, a good sparkling wine from elsewhere otherwise

Combine the rum, honey syrup and lime juice in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, shake for 15 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with a couple ounces of sparkling wine.

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