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Posts Tagged ‘cocktails’

with lavender plant

 

In thinking about Passover and adapting some recipes for that looming, food-centric week, and recollecting a few Passover chol hamoeds spent in Miami where some clubs serve special Passover drinks (never very tasty, though), I thought I would share a very easy method for sweetening drinks, cocktails the “old-fashoined” way. This is very much aligned with my “Passover philosophy” of going back to basics and also brings me a little bit closer to figuring out how to recreate the lovely cocktails I had last week.

Simple syrup is just a well-saturated mix of water and sugar. Nothing more to it. Pretty simple! I believe it’s called a “simple” syrup because it isn’t maple or some syrup found in nature. But, I’m not sure.

Simple Simple Syrup

simple simple syrup close-up

Purists will say that the water to sugar ratio should be 1:1. I’ve seen it diluted down to 2:1 and this is what I tried for my first experiment since I was thinking about that not-too-sweet Lavender Cosmo that I had last week. Adjust to taste — a 1:1 is probably best for cocktails when you’re concerned about not diluting the drink too much.

- Cold water (I use tap)

- Granulated sugar (plain white is just fine)

Boil cold water. Add sugar. Adjust heat to low and stir mixture until sugar is completely dissolved. That’s it. Très simple!

immediately after adding ~2T lavender

immediately after adding ~2T lavender

 

after 20 minutes of infusing, the lavender is turning the syrup slightly yellow

after 20 minutes of infusing, the lavender is turning the syrup slightly yellow

 

eventually all of the color drains from the lavender into the syrup, turning the syrup into a rosy, translucent liquid to match my mahogany table

eventually all of the color drains from the lavender into the syrup, turning the syrup into a rosy liquid to (sort of) match my mahogany table

Once the syrup has cooled, close with a stopper (or a stopper with a spout) and refrigerate. You should probably drain the herbs out too.  That’s if you didn’t infuse your herbs in the bottle you want to store the syrup in. Whoops — my bad! I’ll probably use this infused syrup for everything from tea (hot and iced) to cosmos over the next few days, so it should be fine. But in the future, fresh leaves will likely not fare well after a day.

A few tricks and ideas:

- I made my syrup in a kettle — it was easier to pour into bottles since I only have a small funnel (yes, it is from the flask that I bought and have never used … but I am tempted to bring it on a date!)

- I let my syrup cool in the bottles — probably not the best idea because your bottles can shatter. Whoops! Plus, if you want to infuse fresh basil or mint and then want to strain — best to strain into the bottle. I didn’t quite think that one through.

- Infusing infusing infusing – I just threw about 2 T of dried lavender buds into one of the bottles and kept the other one “pure” for my iced tea. But you can try a whole host of different herbs and spices for different cocktails, sorbets, etc. Vanilla, roses petals, chile peppers (I like spicy sweet), mint, basil, rosemary…the list goes on and on.

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Last night I meet a new friend, Katie, for drinks at Garden at the Cellar on Mass Ave between Central and Harvard Squares. We were given a wine menu, but I immediately flipped the menu over to search for cocktails. Two immediately caught my eye, and with my penchant for fresh herbs, I’m sure you can guess which I ordered.

Garden at the Cellar - Cocktail Menu

The bartender, Heather, was nice and friendly, without being overbearing. You could tell that she really enjoyed her work and created the unique concoctions that I was so excited to imbibe. 

Heather, ready with a smile and a drink

Heather, ready with smile and drink

Heather explained that the Lavender Cosmo is a simple syrup *infused with lavender* (sound familiar?), vodka, in this case, Svedka, a dash of cranberry juice, and a sprinkling of dried lavender. Shake, drain, and pour into a chilled glass. She was kind enough to make a little extra for Katie to try.

Lavender Cosmo - Garden at the Cellar

Unlike most cosmos, this one is not too sweet. It’s like the “Sex and the City” ladies all grown up, maybe moved to Cantabrigia. A little more sophistocated, a little more intellectual. No more Peter Pan syndrome. We’re ready for real life here, but with a hint of Paris …well, maybe Provence. One can only take a SATC analogy so far.

My one critique of the Lavender Cosmo is that while absolutely beautiful, the lavender buds are difficult to drink around and I did find myself having to … how can I say this delicately?… dispose of them in my napkin. I guess, like high heels, sometime aesthetics win over practicality. Even in Boston and Cambridge with all those cobblestones, I usually just walk on the paved streets (no Manolos, but some pretty rocking heels nonetheless) and avoid the cars driving by…

Katie soon enough ordered the Basil Lemon Drop. Fresh basil leaves (when available, which they were in this  gastropub adorned by an edible potted garden) were muddled before us into a simple syrup (or otherwise would have been infused into simple syrup, as with the lavender), shaken with Stoli and lemon juice, and then poured into a glass whose rim was dipped in a mix of sugar and minced basil. The drink was then further garnished with a slice of lemon and a sprig of basil flower. And not the flower of just any basil plant. The flower of a Thai basil plant. Thai basil is purple. And so are its flowers. (By comparison, my own large leaf Italian basil plant has white flowers.)

Basil Lemon Drop - Garden at the Cellar

Stunning as my (Philadelphia) Bubbie would say.

Again, Heather poured a little extra into a small glass for me to try (probably since I was snapping so many pictures!). This green and purple beauty was a little sweeter than the Lavender Cosmo, given its sugared rim, but still not overwhelmingly sweet like you might expect from the lemon drop shot that its name suggests. I’d call this drink the ultimate in sophistication … this one is Paris, sitting outside a bistro at 10 pm in November under the heating lamps and canopy as it gently rains outside and friends, new and old, keep dropping by to say hello.

I had to run off to a fundraiser, but Katie promised to let me know what  food she ordered and whether it lived up to the high expectations set by our drinks.

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