Next Saturday (May 25th) is Towel Day, the annual celebration of Douglas Adams’ life and work. Here’s a celebratory blog post.
My quest to create the perfect Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster began about two years ago. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has been my bible for almost a decade now and the mythical drink has always held a strange kind of appeal. For the uninitiated, here’s what the book has to say about the Gargle Blaster:
…the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster…the effect of which is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.
Most of the “Earth” recipes that you’ll find for the Gargle Blaster fall into one of two categories. The first is the “boring cocktail” category. There are a number of bars across the world that serve their own version of the Gargle Blaster. Most of these try and tackle the “best drink in existence” part of the brief without really addressing the “large gold brick” element. I’m of the opinion that you can’t have one without the other, so while a lot of these drinks look quite tasty they never really look like a Gargle Blaster.
The second category is those which try to recreate the recipe which is listed in the book. This is a clearly futile exercise because that recipe was written specifically to be impossible to make without the use of a spaceship and several dozen lifetimes. “Arcturan Mega-gin” is not the same as Bombay Sapphire.
Drinks that fall into this category tend to be overly complicated and, to be honest, pretty awful.
My own head canon does list a definitive recipe. Unfortunately I’ve never been able to find a copy. During the first run of the Hitchhikers stage play (I’m talking about the one with the hovercraft for those who know their stuff), the theatre bar produced a Gargle Blaster that, from everything I’ve read about it, was pretty damn excellent. I think it involved dry ice.
Unable to get my hands on that formula I set out to create my own.
My first attempt used a recipe from the “accurate recreation” camp. It contained a hell of a lot of ingredients and was pretty complicated to make. It started well and, to be honest, I wish I knew what this drink had tasted like at the stage when it was beautifully green. The main problem with my first attempt at concocting a Gargle Blaster was this: the recipe used Barocca in place of “tooth of an Algolian Suntiger”.
Never do this. For the love of Zarquon, no. When we dropped in the Barroco the drink went from looking presently appetising to looking like this:
The other problem was that it used actual mint extract instead of “hypermint extract”. I can only imagine that hypermint is slightly less like paint stripper when you try to drink it. My first attempt, as you may have gathered, was not particularly successful. But I was undeterred.
It was not long after this that I was given tequila for the first time. Two things occurred to me immediately after I did my first tequila shot. The first was that I obviously liked tequila more than all the other people at this party who were doubled over in agonising protest. The second was that the experience was pleasantly like having your brain smashed out, probably by a brick.
A recipe slowly began to form in my mind…
I wanted tequila, for its brick like quality. I knew that the mint extract had to go but minty-ness wasn’t so bad and it added to the brain smashing somehow. As it happened I had a bottle of Crème de Menthe that I bought to make Grasshopper pie. Not only was this minty but it also happened to be a spacey shade of green. I thought Curacao would be good because it was delicious and an excellent shade of blue. I also knew that it needed lemon, a lot of lemon. I was basing my recipe around the phrase “like having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped around a large gold brick”: there had to be lemon. Also olives were compulsory because they are actually canon.
The first time I road tested this recipe was at a party for Doctor Who Day. Upon consuming it, one of my friends vomited, one almost choked on an olive and everyone else’s eyes started to water. I was on the right track.
The recipes which I subjected by friends to over the next couple of years were variations on this theme. I usually topped up the concoction with ginger beer, in order to make it a cocktail. The main thing which varied was the amounts of Curacao, Crème de Menthe and tequila. Some batches were much better than others. My friends willingly volunteered to be my guinea pigs but I’m not sure they always enjoyed the results.
On one occasion I tried to make a virgin Gargle Blaster. This is a largely pointless exercise which will invariably produce something completely inconsumable. I don’t think anyone was game to even sip the thing. Don’t try this at home.
Earlier this year it occurred to me, that the main complaint was how difficult the Gargle Blaster was to finish. Once you start drinking the thing, not everyone is game to keep going. It had always seemed to me to be the kind of drink that should be downed in one go anyway. That was when I realised that it should probably be a shot.
And so I downsized the recipe and created what my focus group unanimously agreed was the best Gargle Blaster yet. It was, unlike so many of its predecessors, actually pretty. More than that, everyone enjoyed it. It was delicious, it looked like something that they’d serve at a space port and yes, drinking one felt like having your brain smashed out.
So here it is. After two years of experimentation, I am proud to present my recipe to the world. This is one of my proudest life achievements to date and next weekend is the perfect opportunity to try it yourself. Enjoy!
The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster
(Alexandra Neill edition)
1/2 tsp. blue Curacao
1/2 tsp. Crème de Menthe
Juice of half a lemon (strained)
Combine the Curacao and Crème de Menthe in a shot glass. Add lemon to taste (you can add more or less depending how much tequila you want. At least a tsp. is a good guide.). Top with tequila.
A note on olives: my focus group tell me quiet animatedly that the lack of olive is one of this recipe’s strong points. Don’t try to shot an olive or you will probably die. If, however, you would like to include it, you could add one on a toothpick. Remove the olive to drink and then eat it straight afterwards.
 If anyone out there actually has a copy of this recipe or knows where I can find one, please please get in touch.
 When I turned 18, the only thing we drank at bars was something called a Ninja Turtle (blue curacao, Midori, orange juice). For some reason no one outside Grafton has ever heard of a Ninja Turtle but they’re delicious.