A southern cocktail of shame, sugar and swashbucklers

The Feast: Uncategorized  •  December 12, 2014

Much more than the 42nd parallel links the island state of Tasmania with the Southern lands of the Americas. They share a sense of being places ‘on the edge’ where extremes meet in dynamic contrasts rarely experienced in the ‘softer’ Northern Hemisphere. There is little buffering from the bitter bite of Antarctic wind, mountains run unimpeded by coastal plateaux into the sea shaping some of the deepest ports on the globe, plants and animals share similar genetic blueprints and climatic oscillations are dramatic – and can be deadly.

No less volatile are the histories of these places. Again, there are surprisingly strong (and sometimes uncomfortable) resonances in the evolution of the economic, social and cultural fabric of the lands linked by the Roaring Forties.

The shameful endorsement of slavery helped European nations colonise both regions. While it may have been a more overt ‘trade’ in South America, transporting convicts to Van Dieman’s Land, the most dreaded destination, resulted in similar dislocation and trauma.

The invasion of the Inca territories by the Conquistadors is well documented. There has been less acknowledgement of the total dispossession of Tasmania’s indigenous peoples and the comprehensive destruction of their right to culture and even life through ‘The Black War’.

As the Northern Superpowers of the 17th and 18th centuries fought on the turbulent oceans for rich resources – including gold in the Americas and timber in Tasmania, piracy became rampant. Sugar cane, planted and tended by slaves, provided the raw material of one of the most lucrative businesses at the time – the rum trade – and rum is the beverage of the buccaneers.

 

We associate piracy with the Caribbean and the Americas, but Australia in general and the Hobart region, in particular, has its quota of historic swashbuckling stories. These include the mutiny on the Cyprus in 1829, the rumour of buried treasure off the Iron Pot in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the allegation that during the early 1800’s pirates took an average of one vessel every year. It is also intriguing to discover that early houses in Hobart were built with cellars explicitly designed to protect the valuable rum keg store and the liquour was even used as currency to buy and sell property during this period.

On a slightly more contemporary note, we should never forget that Errol Flynn, the legendary Hollywood heartthrob made famous by his leading role in Captain Blood, could have been nicknamed, ‘the Buccaneer from Battery Point’, as he was born in Hobart in 1909.

At Frank, the food style certainly pays authentic homage to the inspiration it draws from the Americas south of the Equator. The décor makes light-hearted allusions to the common history shared with Tasmania where shame, sugar and swashbucklers are strong threads of connection.

At the Bar, the choice of cocktails on offer is perhaps where the restaurant struts with brashest bravado. Each concoction is a unique twist on the original and they are offered with enthusiasm as well as respectful curiosity about the mythic blend of fact, fable and frisson they add to Life. With these delicious and slightly wicked drinks we can ‘play lightly with our dark side’. Just like the drinks, the stories blend the sweet with the sour!

Pina Colada – National beverage of Puerto Rico

Literally meaning ‘strained pineapple’, this drink is most famed for its creation by Ramon Monchito Marrero Perez in 1952. However, centuries before, it is believed that the pirate, Roberto Cofresi created it as a morale-booster for his crew. Apparently he would mix up a generous serve of rum with the juice of fresh pineapples and fresh cracked coconut milk in a large rum barrel to cheer his beleaguered men. We do our best to replicate this classic but leave the keel-hauling to others!

Margarita – Synonymous with Mexico

Earliest accounts of this famous and hugely popular concoction date back to 1938 with Carlos ‘Danny’ Herrera and its creation in his boutique hotel. However, its origins go back further to the original production of tequila when workers in the agave fields – the plant used for the production of tequila – would add fresh citrus to their agave nectar as a refreshing escape from the hot Mexican sun. With the addition of salt as a form of ‘flavour enhancer’, we recreate this classic – minus the sombrero!

Caipirinha – National Cocktail of Brazil

The land known as Brazil today was claimed by the Portuguese Empire on 22 April 1500. During the Empire’s long colonization of the area, Spanish flu spread from Spanish colonies occupying the north of the country. The earliest known treatment was a variation of a ‘hot toddy’ made up of fresh lemon, garlic and honey mixed with a small amount of highly alcoholic distillate called Cacacha – a fermented sugar spirit and the main ingredient of the Caipirinha. At some unknown point, the lemon and garlic were substituted for sugar to remove the bitterness, and ice was added to make it cold. This blending was the birth of the Caipirinha. In the mid 1600’s, sugar and slave-trading boomed in Brazil and spurred the popularity of this once medicinal beverage.

Pisco Sour – National Drink of both Chile and Peru

Sources point towards Victor Vaughn Morris, owner of the Morrison Saloon in Peru, as the creator of the Pisco Sour in 1920. It is named after its main ingredient, Pisco, produced by grapes introduced by the Spanish during their conquest of Central and South America. Its production and distribution exploded with the expansion of vineyards and with ‘guachos’ (south American cowboys) hauling it in ceramic vases on the backs of donkeys all over the Andes. Word quickly spread of the creation of this new clear spirit. With a generous serve of Pisco, fresh citrus, sugar, egg whites and bitters, this cocktail is a fantastic match with Frank food.

Mojito – Cuba

Havana, conquered by the Spanish during the early 1500s, served as a springboard for the European nation’s expansion throughout Central and South America. One story of this drink’s origins links it with Sir Francis Drake, the famous English sea captain who was involved in numerous naval skirmishes in the Caribbean. There was an outbreak of scurvy and dysentery among the crew of his ship. The local South American Indians were known to have remedies for various tropical illnesses, so Drake went ashore to find a cure for his men. He returned with aguadiente de cana (a crude form of rum, which translates as ‘fire water from the sugar cane’) mixed with fresh lime, sugarcane juice and fresh mint. Drake brought the tropical medicinal ‘tonic’ back to Havana and from there its popularity exploded. Sadly for Drake, his contribution to the healing of others did not prevent his own death from dysentery several years later. Today the origin ingredients are used along with the addition of soda to lengthen the drink.

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