A Swamp cocktail for our times — ‘The Perfect Call’


It has been a month since we asked readers to submit their ideas for the most appropriate Swamp cocktail. We got some highly inventive suggestions. Because it is Thanksgiving, now seems like an optimal moment to share the winner. It is an amalgam of the best submissions, which we have dubbed The Perfect Call. It starts with a strong base of Stolichnaya Elit Vodka — only the fieriest Russian liquor will do. This, of course, reflects the Putinesque flavour of today’s Washington DC. Then a generous helping of Bollinger, which captures the money flowing through the Washington bubble. A dash of Cointreau and orange food colouring to incorporate the president’s distinctive hair. Finally a drop of raspberry to symbolise what the rest of America thinks about its capital. We are all forever blowing raspberries at the Washington Beltway.

The Perfect Call refers to Trump’s repeated description of that famed partial transcript of the July 25th conversation between him and Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president. We had half a mind to call the drink the Unelected Bureaucrat, or the Deep State Hangover. Suffice to say, one round of this concoction ought to lay the foundations for a fitting hangover. As one of our readers pointed out, a bad head the next morning is a prerequisite for any Swampian cocktail nowadays. More tentative readers can dilute the cocktail with some high-quality sparkling water, preferably Gerolsteiner. I think the drink will taste good either way. I plan to mix one this weekend and will report back. Rana, I very much urge you to do the same. This is about trial and error.

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American party cocktails close-up shot
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To wit, there were plenty of compelling runners up. Victoria Li had a ferocious brew to “muddy ones’s senses”, which was inspired in equal parts by the movie Django Unchained and the Kentucky Derby’s mint julep. It includes bourbon, absinthe, cilantro leaves, lime juice and mint. Then it is topped with a dome of crushed ice in an “allusion to the impact of the Swamp on the impending climate crisis”. Thank-you Victoria. I felt a hangover begin as I started to read your recipe.

Metin Toksoz-Exley’s Swamp Bird is a twist on the cocktail called Jungle Bird. It begins, very appropriately, with an artisanal gin brewed in the beltway, the Green Hat Gin, followed by three-quarters of an ounce of Capitoline Tiber Aperitivo, and then half an ounce of syrup, fresh pineapple juice and lime juice. I like the Tiber theme, which, of course, is named after Rome’s great river and Washington’s own Tiber Creek.

Alexander Peschkoff showed great verbal and mixologist flair with his swamp cocktail that includes Soda, Whisky, Amaretto, Martini Rosso and a Political twist of orange, and, of course, delivers the perfect acronym.

Thank-you also to the wonderfully named Geoffrey Wildanger, whose negroni-based idea with a dark twist includes “a couple of dashes of orange bitters to remind us of the 45th president’s skin tones”.

Chris Allison’s Midori mixer helps keep his cocktail swampishly green. The whisky base reminds him of the smoke-filled rooms of old. Sandra Pickering’s Peatland Flaneur elevates the tone of an otherwise crapulent range of offerings. Her mix includes 25ml of Springbank Longrow Peated whisky, 25ml of Noilly Prat and 25ml of Campari. Her ingredients celebrate “Scotland’s Europeanism as an escape from the swamp of Brexit Britain”.

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Chapeaus, also, to Robert Rosner and Daniel Shearer for their mixological flair, and to everyone else for taking the trouble. At some point, Rana, I think we had agreed to find a high calibre Washington bar, hopefully empanelled with cherry tree wood, to sample the winning entry. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to all Swamp readers.

Recommended reading

  • Talking of which, my column this week looks at the impact of kleptocratic money on US politics — and rues that the need to tackle money laundering is not playing a greater role in the 2020 debate. “Shining a light on dirty money flows would pose a greater risk to autocrats like Putin than five new aircraft carriers,” I write.
  • I much appreciated this op-ed by Richard V. Spencer, the US navy secretary who was fired last Sunday for trying to shield the US system of military justice from Trump’s interference. In contrast to Jim Mattis, his former boss, John Bolton, and indeed anyone else who has left the administration, Spencer had the decency to lay out in simple terms what happened. Unlike Anonymous, whose name we may never know, Spencer displays principle and courage. “Our allies need to know that we remain a force for good, and to please bear with us as we move through this moment in time,” he writes. I hope he is right.
  • Finally, Megan Greene in the FT has a powerful critique of wealth taxes, which she says would be fiendishly hard to administer, create distortions in capital allocation, and raise too little to justify the fuss. I am still undecided on the benefit of a wealth tax but I am increasingly sceptical about the trade off between how much money it would raise and the monumental task of getting it on the statute books. There are probably more efficient ways to lift tax revenues.
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Rana Foroohar responds

Ed, isn’t it wonderful how alcohol can bridge the political divide? As one of our Swamp Cocktail contest entrants said to me: “I may not agree with everything you write, but I always have to think and reflect upon what you say.” And hopefully, upon what we now mix. I have to call out a couple of my own favourites that weren’t on your list — Christopher Alexander’s gin-based concoction, with DeKuyper sour apple pucker liqueur to “keep the drinker’s look on point.”

And Chris Durban’s creative layering of ingredients — he suggests freezing a Gummi crocodile in a black or green ice ball, adding bourbon and cranberry (to create murk), a layer of blue curacao which will eventually turn the whole thing (and perhaps the drinker) green, and garnishing with an orange peel zest in the shape of our president’s hair. I look forward to planning our Swamp Drinks event in an appropriate venue with you in the new year.

Your feedback

We’d love to hear from you. You can email the team on swampnotes@ft.com, contact Ed on edward.luce@ft.com and Rana on rana.foroohar@ft.com, and follow them on Twitter at @RanaForoohar and @EdwardGLuce



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