October 15, 2012
Well, hello there strangers! Like what seems to be 95% of the cocktail blogging scene, I have been taking a rather guilty, rather extended break from this site. And so – just in time for October’s Mixology Monday, I’m back! This month’s challenge is being hosted by Ed over at Wordsmithing Pantagruel, and reads as follows:
“With the warm days of summer now fading off into the distance in our rear view mirrors, let’s pay one last tribute to the greens of summer before the frosts come and our outdoor herb gardens give up the ghost for the winter. For our theme for this month, I have chosen: (it’s not easy) “Bein’ Green.” (Perchance due in no small part to my predilection for Green Chartreuse.) I’m giving you a wide berth on this one, anything using a green ingredient is fair play. There’s not only the aforementioned Chartreuse; how about Absinthe Verte, aka the green fairy. Or Midori, that stuff is pretty damn green. Crème de menthe? Why not? Douglas Fir eau de vie? Bring it! Apple schnapps? Uh…well…it is green. I suppose if you want to try to convince me it makes something good you can have at it. But it doesn’t have to be the liquor. Limes are green. So is green tea. Don’t forget the herb garden: mint, basil, cilantro, you name it – all fair game. There’s also the veritable cornucopia from the farmers market: green apples, grapes, peppers, olives, celery, cucumbers…you get the idea. Like I said, wide berth. Base, mixer, and or garnish; if it’s green it’s good. Surprise me. Use at least one, but the more the merrier.”
This seemed like the perfect excuse to pull out one of my particularly-challenging-but-tasty concoctions: a cilantro-Batavia-Arrack infusion. Here we go:
1.5 oz cilantro-Batavia-Arrack infusion ¹
0.5 oz London Dry gin [BigGin]
0.25 oz basil turbinado syrup ²
3 d Chartreuse Élixir Végétal
Basil leaf garnish
The infusion has a lot of intense flavor to work with; the smoky, funky arrack notes and the woody-citrusy cilantro will dominate almost everything I have tried pairing them with. However, Big Gin is an equally intense gin with heavy pepper and citrus notes (and also “green” in that it is a local spirit). It not only holds its own, but can actually take over in the face of the arrack. I used the basil syrup to sweeten and smooth the intense flavors without losing the botanical focus, and of course, no highly botanical green drink would be complete without a few dashes of Élixir Végétal and a leafy green garnish to tie it all together!
This is not a cocktail I’d want to drink every day, but it has a fascinating depth to it despite being a simple stirred drink. The multitude of flavors blend together well, resulting in a distinct yet balanced libation, while leaving you with the impression that you just encountered a most striking form of pesto that isn’t quite pesto. For my personal taste, I would reduce the syrup to a barspoon, as I tend to like my drinks overly-bittered and under-sweetened by standard tastes.
¹ Cilantro Batavia Arrack Infusion
Fill an 8 oz jar halfway with cilantro leaves, gently tamped down. Top with 4 oz Batavia-Arrack. Age for 2 days, strain through a coffee filter, and bottle. Lifespan is indefinite, as is the stunning green color, if kept in a cool, dark place such as the recesses of a liquor cabinet.
² Basil Syrup
Cook a 1:1 ratio turbinado simple syrup with 1/2 c water and 1/2 c sugar. Immediately after removing from heat, pour into a jar with 1 oz (by weight) fresh basil leaves. Allow them to steep for approximately 1 hour in the closed container. Strain through cheesecloth or fine mesh and bottle. The syrup should be viable for several months up to (at best) a year if kept refrigerated well, though it is best used within the month.