The alcohol-industrial complex has concocted a bewildering number of horatory days, weeks, and months. There’s National Martini Day [June 19], National Bourbon Heritage Month [September], and National Liqueur Day [October 16]. Inevitably, this gets weird. In an act of collaborative mercy, Harvey Wallbanger Day and National Shot Day both happen on November 8. Because there is no god, there is now a National Rhubarb Vodka Day. And so on.
Which provides me all the justification I need to take the following action:
I hereby declare, with the authority invested in me by absolutely nobody whatsoever, National Kumquat Cocktail Fortnight™. Hereafter it shall be observed annually from February 25 through March 11 (March 10 on leap years).
Kumquat season, you say?
Kumquats — small ovals of citrus the size of an olive, sweet of skin and sour of belly, believed to be native of China — have a limited season, from January through March. This makes a fixed celebration during this period actually defensible. [I’m not sure the creators of National Rhubarb Vodka Day can make the same claim.]
This compressed availability issue may explain why, against all reason, the kumquat has failed to become a stable behind craft cocktail bars everywhere. It should.
Kumquats are pretty little things, easy to muddle, and fairly versatile for an exotic.
The miniature orange orbs are sharp and punchy, a frisky variation on – and easy collaborator with – the more familiar citrus flavors we know too well.
They have a funny name that invites a lowbrow leer.
You can probably find them from January through March at Whole Foods and similar high-fallutin’ food barns.
Like the very best people I know, kumquats are sweet, tart, and just slightly bitter.
They are also the only citrus fruit whose skin you can eat. Which is to say: In drinks, kumquats function as an edible citrus garnish.
Smash of the Titans
I became a kumquat konvert [I won’t do that again] at the estimable Clover Club in Brooklyn. In season, they serve a drink called Smash of the Titans. I was lucky enough to be served one last February.
The drink is a delightful domestic partnership between a Whiskey Smash and a Caipirinhia, with the sassy little love nuggets standing in for the lime quarters.
Smash of the Titans cocktail recipe
- 2 oz bourbon
- Something smooth. Clover Club uses Four Roses. When I’m livin’ large, I use Basil Hayden’s. When I’m just livin’, I use Bulleit.
- .75 simple syrup
- This seems like a lot in light of the .25 of lemon juice, but the kumquats add a lot of tartness to the glass.
- .25 lemon juice
- 3 kumquats, halved
- 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
- Thyme is a worthy stand-in. Most kumquat drink recipes include an herb or spice. Huh.
How to make a Smash of the Titans cocktail
- In a mixing glass, muddle the kumquats with the simple and a couple stray leaves of oregano. Don’t poke at the oregano too hard.
- Add lemon juice and bourbon.
- Shake a bit, just to mix. No need to show off.
- Dump it all out, unstrained, right into an Old Fashioned glass.
- Garnish with two sprigs of oregano.
- Marvel at the gorgeous glassful of orange debris studded with green tendrils.
Smash of the Titans tasting notes
- It’s a very approachable and flavorful variation of the whiskey sour — crisp, balanced, and invigorating.
- The sweet skin and sour pulp dance quite nicely.
- The oregano provides a kind of earthy counterpoint to the sunny citrus notes.
- Like a Caipirinha, it gets in your teeth. Revel in it.
- The Smash of the Titans is a 55-degree late winter afternoon, eyeing the pleasures coming in the weeks ahead. Which is why National Kumquat Cocktail Fortnight® is perfectly situated on the calendar.
At any time while enjoying your beverage, pluck out a muddled kumquat shell and eat it. Sweet skin, sour belly. I’m reminded of the label on SweeTarts candy when I was a kid: “Bite ’em for a burst of flavor!”
Kumquats: The incredible edible garnish
If in public, eat the kumquat shells in your drink extravagantly, the better to call attention to your gastronomic audacity of eating a citrus garnish whole.
If anyone asks what you’re doing, meet their gaze, level your eyes, and forcefully say: “I am eating a kumquat. Would you like one of my kumquats?” You will have oregano in your teeth.
This should either silence things immediately or launch a lifelong friendship. I’m usually fine either way.
More Kumquat Cocktail Fortnight⊄ recipes
Frankly, the Smash of the Titans is such a great drink it’s sufficient to build an official National Fortnightº around. But here are three more recipes to get the kumquats rolling:
Kumquat Smash In this drink, attributed to Dimitris Kiakos of the Gin Joint in Athens, Greece, kumquats are joined by gin, lemon juice, maraschino, and a pinch of nutmeg.
Kumquat Champagne Cocktail Bon Appetit unloosed this one, which adds some Grand Marnier to the bubbly along with kumquats, onto the world in 2004.