The Ne Plus Ultra

We’ve talked about the Bar La Florida before. One of the main stomping grounds of Ernest Hemingway as he descended into alcoholic middle age, The driving force behind Bar La Florida was Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, or Constante to his friends and regular clientele. No one can say who first started making drinks with a blender, but there’s a pretty good chance it was Constante.

I tend to look down my nose at blended drinks – let’s call it the stigma of the strawberry margarita – but they do have a long and legitimate history in cocktaildom, so this is an attitude I shall have to get past. And…ok. I’m past it.

The Ne Plus Ultra was one of Constante’s creations, and appears in Charles Baker’s well-known The Gentlemen’s Companion, from which Jeff Berry borrows it for his magisterial Potions of the Caribbean. It has a ridiculous assortment of ingredients. I mean, really. This thing is over the top. It’s not difficult to make, per se, just…fairly absurd.

The Recipe:

1/2 oz. each of:

apricot brandy

cognac

Benedictine

Chartreuse

Cointreau

white creme de cacao

1/8 tsp. Pernod (I used genuine absinthe rather than a plain pastis – it won’t matter much one way or the other)

2 cups of crushed ice

Place all this in a blender and blend on high for 20-30 seconds, until well frappéd. Pour into chilled cocktail glasses. Serves two.

Ne Plus Ultra

I garnished with a twist of orange peel and a cherry, although technically no garnish is called for. So it’s up to you.

As with just about any drink containing Chartreuse, the Ne Plus Ultra winds up with a fair amount of that liqueur’s distinctive mix of herbal bitterness, and the dollop of absinthe adds a bit more in that area. Playing against these flavors are the summery sweetness of the Cointreau and apricot brandy, with the Benedictine adding some sweeter herbal tones as well. The cognac and the creme de cacao seem to get washed away by the other more strongly-flavored ingredients. All told, it’s an odd drink, but memorable and really quite good in its own way. If you happen to have all these ingredients in your bar, this is definitely worth a shot. Four livers.

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