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Cocktail of the day: Lavender Lemonade

A welcome contribution from Malika Henderson, who describes this long drink as “a perfect summer drink”. I’ve adapted it to my taste; she made hers with vodka, but as I agree with Audrey Saunders’ sentiment that most of the time a vodka cocktail is a cocktail with a hole in it, I decided to give it a bit more flavor.

Lavender Lemonade
(adapted from Malika Henderson)

1 ounce lavender syrup.
Juice of one lemon.
1-1/2 ounces Plymouth gin.
Sparkling water.

To make the lavender syrup: bring 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and the zest of one lemon to a boil; remove from heat, then add 1 cup lavender blossoms. Let steep overnight, then strain and bottle.

Fill a highball glass with ice, add the syrup, lemon juice and vodka, then top with sparkling water. You may leave out the gin to make it nonalcoholic, and it’s also great with white rum too.

Malika and Catherine publish a quarterly newsletter called “Food Notes and Stories” which looks really good. You can see what it’s all about, including excerpts, on their site. I might just have to become a subscriber.

Cocktail of the day: Blue Moon

This one might take a little effort, but if it sounds intriguing to you, it’s more than worth it. If you’ve ever loved the aroma and flavor of violets … if you ever enjoyed C. Howard’s Scented Gum or Violet Mints, imagine what real violets and not artificially violet-flavored things might taste like.

I first tried this at Dr. Cocktail’s place, and thought it was incredible. “I need to be able to make these all the time,” I thought. Unfortunately, I couldn’t; at the time the primary flavoring ingredient was no longer made (which is not atypical of drinks from Doc’s bar). The drink called for gin, a touch of lemon juice, and a violet-flavored liqueur called Crème Yvette. Crème Yvette used to be made by Charles Jacquin et Cie (the people who make Chambord), but had been defunct for years; Doc got his batch from someone who knew how Jacquin made it, and who made his own for himself and his friends. Sigh … what to do?

Fortunately, there’s a similar liqueur Crème de Violette — not quite the proprietary formula of Crème Yvette, but close enough. The one I found at the time was made by Benoit-Serres in Villefrance-de-Lauragais, southeast of Toulouse in the south of France. They don’t export their products (bad news), but there lots of good news too!

UPDATE: As of 2008 Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette from Austria is available in finer spirits shops, and in early 2010 the original formula of Crème Yvette will be re-released by Robert Cooper, heir to the Jacquin company and the man who brought us St. Germain.

This is a very, very good thing, because with original Crème Yvette this is an absolutely exquisite cocktail.

Blue Moon

2 ounces gin (we like Plymouth).
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice.
1/4 ounce Crème Yvette (or Crème de Violette).

Shake or stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass;
garnish with a twist of lemon.

For a subtler cocktail, reduce the lemon to 1/4 ounce and the Yvette to 1 teaspoon.

Let’s do a project.

How about a participatory “Cocktail of the Day”?

This isn’t actually a cocktail, but an infused spirit. If you’ve been reading regularly you probably know I’m a big fan of infused spirits, and I’ve been doing quite a few of them lately. As I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve got one going now that I’m more excited about than any of them so far.

I read about this one in Charles H. Baker, Jr.’s The Gentleman’s Companion or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask: Exotic Drinking. As soon as I saw it I thought it looked fantastic and immediately wanted to try it. Why don’t we all find out?

What I’d like to do is to encourage as many of you as possible — those of you into spirits and cocktails, at least — to try this along with me. It doesn’t require much work, and I think the rewards will be well worth the effort. I’ve got about a week’s head start on you so far, but no worries. I’ll taste it first and let you know what you can expect. I think this’ll be a perfect summer drink, so start this week and let me know how you like it when it’s done.

Tequila por mi Amante
Collected by Charles H. Baker, Jr., Mexico City, 1937

Three pints strawberries.
One 750ml bottle of your favorite reposado tequila.

Go to a local farmer’s market and buy the best, reddest and most flavorful strawberries that you can. They’re right at the peak of their season now. Avoid any strawberries that aren’t completely red, particularly those with white “shoulders”. Wash, hull and halve the strawberries, quartering the really big ones.

Place into a 2 liter/quart jar with a seal, and cover with a good quality reposado tequila. Any really good 100% agave tequila will do. (Do not use Cuervo Gold or any of that cheapo stuff.) I suppose a good silver one would work as well.

Allow the strawberries to steep in the tequila for at least two weeks. Every day, when you think about it, give the jar a gentle shake, turning it upside down a few times. After about 2 weeks strain the tequila through several layers of cheesecloth, squeezing all the liquid out of the strawberries. By this point the strawberries will be bleached, lifeless hulls. Toss them.

Funnel the gorgeous rose-red infused tequila into a bottle (the same one it came in will work), seal and allow to age for at least three weeks. At the end of the aging period, you can filter it again if there’s any sediment at the bottom, or else just pour off the clear spirit and leave the sediment behind.

To serve, pour 3 ounces of the tequila per drink into shaker with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Serve up with a lime wedge, which you may optionally squeeze into the drink.

I’m trying to imagine what this is going to taste like, and so far the imagination is saying it’ll taste great. Besides drinking it alone and up, I’m thinking it might also make a great un-frozen strawberry margarita (I don’t care much for frozen drinks). Three parts of this, two parts Cointreau, one part lime juice, shaken and up or on the rocks.

Try it yourself, and do please let me know what you think.

UPDATE: I don’t have to imagine what this is going to taste like anymore. Now I know. It’s one of the best things ever.