Decades ago, in some dark, damp, neon-lit nightclub lost to time, an idea was born. Bred from equal parts disco and divinity, pop culture and pablum, a drink emerged that would rule both sports bar and dance club for years. Enter the Mind Eraser.
Consisting of two ounces of vodka and an ounce each of Kahlúa and soda, layered carefully in an ice-filled glass, precisely when the Mind Eraser emerged is unclear. But it almost certainly appeared well after the White Russian, its Dude-tastic forebear. The White Russian itself was an offshoot of the Black Russian, whose provenance is traceable. Building on the increased popularity of Russian vodka in post–World War II Europe, Belgian bartender Gustave Tops of the Hotel Métropole in Brussels invented the simple drink, featuring two ounces of vodka to each ounce of Kahlúa. In 1949, Tops created the cocktail, stirred and served over ice, for Perle Mesta, a Washington, D.C., socialite and the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg.
The Black Russian proved to be ripe for riffing. Bartenders around the world added elements to the basic blueprint: Guinness for an Irish Russian, cola for a Colorado Bulldog, ginger for a Brown Russian, and, of course, cream for a White Russian. A result of that mid-1990s outpouring of Russian riffs, the Mind Eraser was designed to be quickly sipped through a straw in one gulp; the resulting brain freeze likely inspired the name.
But the Mind Eraser faded into relative obscurity by 2010 as the cocktail revival kicked into high gear. Along with the Johnny Vegas and the Red-Headed Slut, its fellow ’90s and early aughts-era shooters, the Mind Eraser lurked quietly in the collective bartender conscience. It bided its time, waiting patiently for the world to remember it, revive it, and celebrate it once more.
The Mind Eraser gets a fresh new look.
And now it’s back, at least at Washington, D.C.’s Service Bar. According to general manager Carlos Paiva and lead bartender Christine Kim, the revival of the Mind Eraser was spurred by regulars at the bar. Kim and Paiva started getting more requests for the drink beginning around February 2021. They worked through various iterations, wanting to ensure that the recipe was true to the spirit of the Mind Eraser, but also balanced—and more than just a shot—before they made it a regular feature. Inspiration hit when fellow D.C. bartender Dimitre Darroca dropped by one night and mentioned his time spent in the Rumple Minze cabin (named after a brand of peppermint schnapps) at Camp Runamok, an annual bartender convention. Reaching for a bottle of Rumple Minze, Kim knew that the spirit’s higher proof and strong mentholated flavor would need a powerful sidekick. She landed on Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee liqueur, combining the two spirits in equal measure, and topped them with soda.
“We all chug, and then halfway through, you’re like, ‘It’s not that bad,’” says Paiva. “And then everybody kind of had the consensus, ‘Wow, that was a lot better than I thought it was gonna be.’” The fizzy soda elongated both the peppermint-patty intensity from the Rumple Minze and Jäger’s botanical complexity. They had a hit on their hands.
Today, the cocktail—dubbed Meint Eraser to play on the “Mind/Mint” combination—is a popular call at Service Bar, where Kim opts to serve the drink in a Collins glass with heaping crushed ice, which allows it to be sipped as slowly or as quickly as the drinker desires. With its new formula and presentation, the drink doesn’t feel out of place on the Service Bar roster of recipes, though for Kim it remains the ultimate party starter, a chance to bring the community together for some retro fun. “The ripple effect has been very strong lately,” she says, noting that when one person sees a round of Meint Erasers go out, another order often follows.
“It’s just the camaraderie of it,” says Paiva. “So it could be somebody that’s 15 feet away that you’re just raising your glass to and everything stops for a second—we’re doing something together again.”