It’s the third annual World Pangolin Day, a time to raise awareness of the strange and wondrous animal that is the single most encountered mammal in the illegal global trade in endangered animals.
The odd pangolin, a scaly anteater that looks like a cross between a streamlined badger and a pine cone, is captured and consumed in the mistaken belief that its keratin scales hold medicinal value – although they are little different from human fingernails. As the pangolin grows ever more scarce, pangolin flesh, and even the fetuses, are made into pricey soups as a demonstration of luxury consumption.
Meanwhile, the eight species of pangolin in the world are rapidly becoming extinct.
In honor of the day, I wanted to make a Happy Pangolin cocktail, a drink that reflected the long anteater tongue, the scales, the ants, and the tart appeal of the pangolin.
I started with this – hard apple cider, a slice of cherimoya fruit (note the black seeds for ants), and a long, slender slice of cucumber for the pangolin tongue. I made a reduction of basil essence, mixed that with cognac, and poured it over the fruit.
But I was unsatisfied with the taste – too sweet, too bland. A pangolin is many things, but it is not bland.
So I moved on. To kiwi fruit (note the black seeds for the ants) mashed with a bit of sugar and basil, the cucumber tongue, and this time, calvados, prosecco and a scaly garnish of pineapple skin.
Well. It tasted just fine, quite delicious, actually. But it was murky, the basil floated around aimlessly. A third try, mashing together the kiwi and basil, rendered the basil flavor too acidic.
Finally, running out of cucumber, I made this variation. A bit of brown sugar in the bottom of a glass, followed by half slices of kiwi. Prosecco carefully poured over the fruit (it fizzes easily), followed by a shot of calvados, then a cucumber tongue, a slice of pineapple skin perched on the side, garnished with a sprig of fresh basil.
It’s tangy, refreshing, unexpected and overall, pretty good.
What did I learn from making a Happy Pangolin for World Pangolin Day?
Much like the campaign to save the pangolin, the road to success is paved with many failed attempts, there is no single way to reach the goal of a Happy Pangolin. Any and all variations must be tried. Tenacity and determination are of paramount importance.
Go here to find out what you can do to support an end to killing and trade in pangolins.
Find out more at Annimaticus, at the IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, and at Project Pangolin. Let’s help make sure this oddball branch on the Tree of Life doesn’t wither!
And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy a Happy Pangolin with friends this weekend!