This year marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, a milestone his Graceland home is honoring by welcoming the King’s family, friends, and costars for Elvis Week, which lasts through August 17. Musicians from around the world are slated to perform; a candlelight vigil and look-alike contests are also on the agenda.
But if you aren’t able to get to Memphis for Elvis Week, you can still raise a glass, as Drew Childers plans to. “I’ve loved Elvis since I was a kid,” says Childers, the managing partner of Harold’s Cabin in Charleston, South Carolina, who created a signature cocktail for the bar for the occasion. “How could you not appreciate a man who puts bananas on a sandwich?” Indeed.
His Long Live the King cocktail makes for an equally fitting tribute, and also features Elvis’s penchant for bananas and peanut butter, reimagined by Childers in liquid form. The cocktail starts with a base of Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond Whisky, which, he says, “has a robust caramel flavor, coupled with rich vanilla and roasted coffee notes.”
The banana liqueur gets half of Elvis’s sandwich right, but for the peanut butter aspect, Childers challenged himself to make an orgeat syrup from scratch.
Orgeat, a common ingredient in Tiki cocktails such as the mai tai, includes almonds and orange blossom water, and it can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to make at home or in a bar. It’s also readily available in bottled format from companies like Small Hand Foods, out of San Francisco, and El Guapo, down in New Orleans.
For Childers, though, paying homage to one of his favorite musicians was worth the extra effort. He wanted to include a tie to Charleston as well, so he used local benne seeds (available from purveyors like Anson Mills) instead of peanuts, which gave the syrup a toastier, deeper flavor than do the usual sesame seeds. And in turn, “This syrup helps intensify the vanilla flavor of the whisky but adds nutty undertones,” Childers explains. “The addition of fresh lime juice then brings the citrus notes forward, too.”
No one would fault you for making a Long Live the King at home, using store-bought orgeat. However, if you have a sturdy saucepan and like a challenge, throw on a few Elvis records or a marathon of his movies and get to work.