The Southern Roots of the Grasshopper Cocktail
Such a fun drink can only come from one place—New Orleans.
Chocolate and mint are a classic combination whether you’re eating an ice cream cone at a Little League game, downing Junior Mints at the movie theater, or having a post-dinner cocktail.
While some people prefer a glug of bourbon or a sip of sherry as their evening cocktail, anyone with a sweet tooth—or a sense of fun—knows the Grasshopper is a winner. Thanks to the combination of crème de menthe and crème de cacao with just enough light cream to make it all go down smooth, Grasshoppers are dessert in a glass. The combination of chocolate and mint taste like a childhood birthday party with a boozy kick or perhaps an alcoholic Shamrock Shake? Either way, the drink is downright irresistible.
Such a fun drink can only come from one place—New Orleans. Specifically, Tujague's, a Creole restaurant that has been making culinary history in the French Quarter since it first opened its door in 1856. Tujague's hasn’t been serving up Grasshoppers for its entire 163-year history, though. According to Eater’s history of the drink, they most likely started serving Grasshoppers sometime around the early 1900s. By that the time, Guillaume and Marie Tujague had sold their namesake restaurant to the family of Philibert Guichet. Guichet was a bit of a latter-day mixologist and reportedly came up with the delightful combination while in the throes of a heated cocktail competition in New York City. Guichet's whipped together that now-famous combination of equal parts crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and cream and dubbed it a “Grasshopper” thanks to its luminous green hue. He won second prize in the competition and headed home to New Orleans with newfound fame and a new drink to add to the menu at the family restaurant.
It’s hard to pin down the exact date of the Grasshopper’s invention, because thanks to Prohibition, newspapers weren’t recording alcoholic accomplishments per se. However, New Orleans food historian Poppy Tooker, who is reportedly working on a history of Tujague’s, told Eater, that customers in the mood for a delightfully green drink could have ordered one at the bar starting from at least around 1919. As Prohibition continued, Tujague’s waiters reportedly slipped the drink to diners from their aprons. It was worth the subterfuge. Grasshoppers do look a bit like what Esquire described as “green-tinted Pepto-Bismol”, but it’s the taste that matters—and Grasshoppers taste divine.
When Prohibition finally lifted, the drink spread across the South and as people got a taste of that chocolate-mint flavor, it even inspired the pie that shares its name. These days, Tujague’s still sells “hundreds” of Grasshoppers every week, although sometime in the 1980s they started adding a non-traditional brandy float to the drink. Since they created the cocktail, they can do whatever they want with it—and the customers certainly aren’t complaining. “We get a lot of great stories of third, fourth-generations coming to Tujague's, and the Grasshopper always comes up in that conversation,” Tujague’s owner Mark Latter told Eater, recounting how generations have come to his bar to raise a glass filled with a Grasshopper.
If you’re looking for the history of the frozen version of a Grasshopper, you have to head much farther North. It was reportedly the Wisconsin supper clubs where Tujague’s classic cocktail was turned into a glorified milkshake to great success. The drink is delicious, but for our money we’ll take the original recipe any day—or night or afternoon.
WATCH: How to Make Mint Chocolate Chip Ice-Cream Cake
Can’t get enough of the mint-chocolate flavor combination? Not to worry: This decadent layer cake has all the mint and chocolate goodness you could want in a dessert. Watch how to make it above and get the recipe here.