Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

You Can Lead a Horticulture, But You Can’t Make Her Drink*

Thursday, July 8th, 2010
I’m getting used to strange looks from friends. Usually they stem from my mention of some less common (but incredibly yummy) liquor or the fact that I have willingly embarked on a cooking-related activity in pursuit of a cocktail. But I know I’m in for some serious eye-rolling when I say that I’m actually growing my own food – herbs, mostly – to use for cocktails.

Past years I’ve stuck to planting shrubs, trees and other perennials in the yard, but frankly the upkeep is pretty tedious. I’m not into tedious.  However, I figured that a few pots filled with herbs should be manageable even for me. Oh, and a Topsy Turvy strawberry planter because my kids can’t pass one on the street without yelling, “Topsy Turvy! Topsy Turvy! You should get one, Mom!” Buying a few strawberry plants seemed like better parenting than duct tape as a gag.

Who knows if my “garden” will bring forth cocktail bounty?  I will admit it has been very satisfying to wander to the patio to pick the mint, lemon thyme, basil or cilantro called for in my recipe books.  Soon I should be able to try out some pineapple mint, orange mint, thai basil and sage, too.

My cocktail garden.

In the meantime, here is a great recipe that utilizes the cilantro, as well as the blackberries that are poised to take over in my region. My friend Dee calls the Yerba Mora, “bright and lovely.” Funny, that’s how I describe Dee, too.

Yerba Mora  (created by mixologist Joaquin Simo)

5 cilantro leaves
5 blackberries, plus 3 blackberries skewered on a pick for garnish
2 ounces blanco tequila
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
Dash of absinthe
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water, shaken to mix)

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the 5 blackberries. Add ice and all of the remaining ingredients except the skewered blackberries and shake well. Strain (a small fine-mesh sieve is handy to catch the blackberry seeds) into an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with the skewered blackberries (optional).

The Chartreuse is an appealing liqueur and one of the finds that I’ve been happiest about discovering. I have the green Chartreuse called for in the Yerba Mora, but there is a also a yellow (and therefore not actually chartreuse) Chartreuse that is sweeter. Monks in France have been making it for centuries, which suddenly make monks seem far more interesting. It has also made my liquor cabinet more interesting.

Cheers, ICE

*This headline – slightly tweaked – is courtesy of writer Dorothy Parker’s quote, “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”


Beyond ComPear

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Spring.  My days are given over to field trips, baseball, or the schedule upheavals they create. I spent the day on a preschool field trip to West Seattle. This meant a volley of high-pitched screeching in enclosed spaces (how do 5 year old girls hit notes that high?) and that fun “why” game.  Would it have been wrong for me to get to drink every time I was asked, “why?”

I did perk up on the way home when I hit the West Seattle Produce Company – a brand new produce stand on Fauntleroy Way SW. I got lots of cocktail fixin’s, including mint, cilantro, pineapple, Meyer lemons and Asian pears. It was these last that my daughter went crazy for, and while I was thinking the equivalent of comfort food in cocktails, Shirley Temple was insisting that we make a drink with pears (yup, even my kids are getting into the act).

So we did. Asian pears, fresh mint leaves, honey syrup, lime and lemon juices and ginger beer. Of course, I added some Captain Morgan’s spiced rum to mine.  I’m sure you could substitute regular pears.

Beyond ComPear

3 mint leaves
1 ½  oz Captain Morgan spiced rum
3/4 oz pureed Asian pear
½ oz honey syrup (see below)
¼ oz lemon juice
¼ oz lime juice
1 oz ginger beer (I used Cock N Bull brand; other brands may be sweeter)

Make the honey syrup ahead by vigorously shaking together equal parts honey and warm water and allow to chill in the refrigerator. Make a batch as it will keep for 3 weeks refrigerated.

Puree the Asian pear and set aside. Muddle the mint leaves in a shaker, then add ice, pear puree, honey syrup, and lemon & lime juices; shake well. Double-strain into cocktail glass, add ginger beer and stir.

Keep in mind that even fresh ingredients can vary in flavor, so it’s important to taste a drink and then adjust for sweetness or tartness as desired. If you are serving to guests and they don’t want your cooties, try this: dip in a straw, hold the top and then release the portion into your mouth.  

I’m thinking it is time for my own field trip. There are many mixologists shaking up great cocktails Seattle area. If you have a favorite destination, please share with us!

Cheers, ICE

Next up to bat: drinks featuring rhubarb.


If It Weren’t For Those Muddling Kids

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

I don’t think Scooby Doo and the gang were making many cocktails (Shaggy was likely smoking his intoxicants), but they might view muddling as a mystery. Since this is a prominent part of making many cocktails today, let’s get it out there.

Muddling is pressing ingredients with a pestle-shaped muddler in order to release the juices, oils and flavors of fruits, herbs and chile peppers.  If you’ve ever ordered a mojito, you’ve seen this technique in action, as the bartender muddles the mint in the bottom of the glass with sugar before adding the rum, lime juice and club soda. If done well, you get a pretty drink with greenery and a nice mint taste. If the drink mixer has aggression issues, you get a whole lot of leaf pieces shooting up your straw with each sip – where you know they’ll probably lodge between your teeth like you’ve been eating salad. Or, in the case of a frustrating blackberry mojito I had at the Ritz Carlton (where you’d think they’d know better) in Lake Las Vegas, a straw jammed with blackberry seeds.   

But strength of muddling is not the only factor.  Some cocktail pros advocate adding sugar with the item to be muddled – in the case of the mint above, the grains of sugar would help masticate the leaves. Others use simple syrup, which is not granular, in order to mix the flavors before shaking with ice and booze.  And at one site I saw a clip of a bartender slapping the mint in between his hands to release the flavor, but I’ll save that for when my mint has been very, very naughty.

Unlike the mojito, most drinks I make and see recipes for call for muddling in a cocktail shaker and not in the serving glass, so the muddled items are strained out.  No doubt I will learn more (and share it here), but I have found a couple of muddling musts:  First, I don’t smash the fruit or leaves; I press and turn the muddler slightly each time. I also tend to muddle leafy herbs first, then add any fruit and muddle it again. Otherwise it is hard to reach the herbs properly through the thick fruit.  Then I add the ice and remaining ingredients and shake. But – and here’s the second part – I don’t rely on the strainer at the top of my shaker if I’ve muddled soft fruit or that with seeds in it. I put a baby strainer on top of the glass and pour the drink through that. You get a yummy drink and no salad teeth.

Try this spring drink out:

Strawberry-Basil Refresher

6 strawberries
6 basil leaves
2 oz vodka
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz lime juice
2 oz club soda

In a cocktail shaker, first muddle the basil, then add strawberries and muddle. Add ice, vodka, simple syrup and lime juice; shake well. Double-strain into a highball with ice, then add club soda and stir gently.

Cheers, ICE