Lisbon’s Monkey Mash is not only the gateway to the award-winning Red Frog Speakeasy—it’s a bona fide cocktail destination in its own right. In fact, though the two are sibling bars, their décor and atmosphere could not be more different. Monkey Mash is the polar opposite of the intimate and sultry Red Frog, which mixes up riffs on the classics; the former is vibrant and tropical, with a menu of strictly pre-batched cocktails.
For Monkey Mash, this style of service started in the pandemic, “not only as a way to be more efficient and resourceful with labor, but to be more mindful of our water wastage due to Portugal’s issues with droughts and its water supplies,” says co-owner and bartender Paulo Gomes. “We are also able to give guests samples of our drinks ... which is great for guests who may not be comfortable with the menu and its unique ingredients,” he says. The bar’s laid-back and approachable concept, with all the artistry happening behind the scenes, makes its inventive, regionally influenced cocktails accessible to any drinker.
In the Switch, a drink inspired by the flavors in the Last Word, this avant-garde approach to pre-batched cocktails is on full display. Gomes considers the classic cocktail’s flavor structure and infuses it with a blend of ingredients, many of them from local regions, yielding a complex cocktail with notes of umami, herbs, fruit and citrus.
For the base of the cocktail, Gomes opts for GinRaw, a gin made in Barcelona with Mediterranean ingredients (lemon, lime leaves, black cardamom) that’s distilled at a low temperature to retain some of the more subtle aromatics of its botanicals. The spirit is manipulated into two separate components for the Switch.
To make the first ingredient, Gomes infuses the gin with Mosaic hops before distilling the infusion in a rotary evaporator, creating a hop distillate. By redistilling the infused gin, he captures all of the volatile compounds and citrusy aromatics of the hops, leaving behind their bitterness. For the other half of the base, Gomes infuses the gin with locally sourced spirulina, a blue-green algae from the Azores, with an ultrasonic homogenizer (also known as a Sonicator). The high-frequency tool rapidly infuses the gin by using ultrasonic waves, integrating the algae flavors so that the subtle vegetal and umami notes can still shine through when paired with the stronger-flavored hops.
Then, in keeping with the Last Word’s typical formula, the Switch gets an herbal dose of green Chartreuse. In place of the typical lime, fresh yuzu from southern Portugal adds acidity and balance to the mix, which is complemented with funky Ginjo Yuzushu sake from Akashi-Tai.
“In the beginning, our goal was to create a cocktail that was very clean, visually and texturally,” says Gomes. However, the final product was cloudy, thanks to the spirulina-infused gin. But the unexpected drink was perfect as is: “We loved the result anyway and decided to put it on the menu.”
As with all of Monkey Mash’s drinks, the Switch is pre-diluted with water, then bottled and stored at a freezing temperature. To serve, the bartenders simply grab the pre-batched drink, dust a chilled double rocks glass with powdered spirulina, and pour the cocktail over a large cube of clear ice. As a finishing touch, they spritz a mist of hop distillate over the drink.
“It’s not always the easiest drink to sell because of the unfamiliar ingredients that we use,” Gomes says. “But after tasting a sample, guests are always surprisingly impressed and end up ordering it because of its novelty.”