What’s Cocktail Hour? Most Fridays at 4 PM I run a popup bar for my company, usually featuring 4 cocktails centered on some ludicrously vague theme. It’s a good exercise in bar logistics, menu planning and high speed cocktail production (my employees are thirsty and ready to cut loose by Friday afternoon, so it’s about 45 drinks in 90 minutes). We’ve recently started capturing feedback on surveys to get an idea of what people like!
This week I’m raiding our little home garden for herbs (“Home Garden” = spend 10 times the amount of time and [maybe?] money to grow something you could have just bought at the grocery store) to put into cocktails.
Every summer our home is in imminent peril of being swallowed up in wild spearmint like Steve McQueen in the THE BLOB – so mint is a no-brainer. Of course the irony is that MINT is one of Lorri’s Four Hated Horseman of the Cocktail Apocalypse (the others being CRUSHED ICE, BITTER AMARI and SHERRY with their evil apprentices CUBED ICE, CAMPARI, GINGER BEER and ALLSPICE DRAM) so most of our int bounty goes to waste (except that she expertly figured out how to make mint extract last year, which we gifted to all of our local friends as Holiday Gifts in December in cute little bottles with our own handmade labels, which I’m sure is sitting in their spice cabinets looking for a purpose, as is ours).
The others are the BASIL (both regular and Thai) and the blessedly rabbit proof (the rabbits here are savage and have eaten all of our scallion tops. parsley and even okra) ROSEMARY and SAGE.
L’IL JIG (Phil Ward) (Score 75.00%)
3 Thai basil leaves
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
1 1/2 ounces silver tequila
1/2 ounce yellow Chartreuse
The LIl’Jig is another enlightened spin on a classic by Phil Ward (known for looking homeless and creating the FInal Ward and the Oaxacan Old-Fashioned). It has the bones of a daiquiri but uses tequila and Yellow Chartreuse instead of rum and simple syrup. It’s supposed to muddled and garnished with Thai Basil (which is sharper and more intense than regular basil) but Thai Basil grows agonizingly slowly and has much smaller leaves, so I did a mix of Thai and regular here. At any rate, it’s an intriguingly herbal cocktail and one I pull out to impress the bartenders.
MADISON PARK SMASH (Score: 90%)
0.25 oz 1:1 demerara syrup
0.75 oz Lemon
1 oz Cognac (Pierre Ferrand)
1 oz Combier (or Cointreau)
1 mint leaf
Garnish mint leaf
Madison Park Smash (from NOMAD in Manhattan whose bar director Leo Robitscheck previously worked at Eleven Madison Park) is one I made as a large format cocktail in a beverage dispenser for a summer party once and it got utterly demolished. It stands out because of the cognac and combier (I actually used Cointreau and backed off about 20%) which is nicely offset by the mint.
VAQUERO (Score: 66.67%)
1 1/2 oz bourbon, Buffalo Trace
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz Ancho Reyes
1/2 oz Aperol
1/4 oz demerara syrup (1:1)
2 dash Angostura bitters
2 pineapple chunks, muddled
1 sage leaf, muddled
I’ve been wanting to make the Vaquero (Spanish for “Cowboy”) for a long time, the mix of Bourbon and semi-spicy Ancho Reyes chile liqueur and Aperol was calling to me, but it’s rare to have fresh sage AND pineapple available. I find pineapple to be one of those flavors you really have to be careful with (the Jungle Bird is the only pineapple drink I completely love) so I tried making a Vaquero with the pineapple omitted and found that it was already deliciously complex and happily left it out.
Rosemary Gimlet (Score 93.75%)
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1.5 to 2 tablespoons (3-4g) coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce rosemary syrup
- Make the rosemary syrup by heating the water, sugar and chopped rosemary leaves in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let the syrup cool completely. Once cool, strain the rosemary syrup into a jar, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Chill a stemmed cocktail glass in the freezer.
- Measure the gin, lime juice and rosemary syrup into a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker halfway with ice, cover, and shake the gimlet mixture about twenty seconds, until very cold. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary or a slice of fresh lime.
This looks like a simple drink (Gin, Lime and Rosemary Syrup) but the making of the Rosemary Syrup was a pain, so this one was actually more work than any of the others. The recipe for the Rosemary Syrup made a big show of how some found the full strength recipe too strong with the rosemary flavor, but I made it full strength and found it much too subtle, so I just boiled the hell out of more rosemary and dumped the reduction into the syrup just to make it strong enough to taste in the resulting drink. I probably should have used our homegrown rosemary instead of grocery store rosemary, but our homegrown looks so much greener and nicer that I saved it for the garnish (which I’m going to flame ANYWAY …). Oh well, live and learn. At any rate everyone loves a good gimlet and this one should be no exception.
Note: Yes, I’m of the group that says “It’s not REALLY a gimlet unless you’re using a homemade lime cordial”, mostly because I once made it, which means scraping the zest off of a billion limes, making a gigantic mess putting them in ziplocs with sugar, waiting 6 years, making a GIGANTIC-ER Mess scraping the resulting sugar and Oleo Saccharum off, adding fresh lime juice and then whining to everyone you serve it to how hard you worked on the cordial … only to have them ask why you didn’t just use that horrific fructose & food coloring abomination called Rose’s Lime Cordial.
So this is not REALLY a gimlet, but I did suffer through making rosemary syrup, so I’m gonna claim naming rights on this one.