Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Independence Day Mixology

I am really getting into making cocktails as a means to experience and play with flavors. It seems to be consuming more of my waking thoughts and the ideas are coming fast and furious. I am also finding I am drinking less. I guess exploring and enjoying flavors is making me slow down for extended appreciation.

Just last night I read about Erik Ellestad who is working through all 888 of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book. Check out his blog, the Underhill Lounge to see all the madness! I’m not that ambitious, but I can also live through his experiences to find ones of my own. He has become a focal point for mixology, cocktail history and is well known personality in a revival of craft cocktails that are more interesting than the same old tricks almost every bartender seems to know. The article and lots of other interesting stuff was in the most recent issue of Imbibe magazine.

On the 4th we rolled on over to Ed & Jim’s for their annual Independence Day BBQ. We have partied with them and their friends before, many of whom are “our people” as I often say to Margot when we meet food and beverage obsessed folks. I decided that I would pack a bar into the cooler and do some mixology and live recipe development while we kicked back and had fun. With an audience interested in trying anything I figured I would get some excellent feedback.

I packed the cooler with the following:
  • Ice (of course)
  • Triple-Sec
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Hand-infused cranberry vodka
  • Hand-infused basil vodka
  • Hand-infused lavender syrup (2:1, with handful of lavender steeped within for 3 days)
  • Lime juice
  • Blueberry / Pomegranate juice
  • Simple syrup (2:1)
I borrowed a shaker and strainer from Ed & Jim because I forgot the bottom to mine chilling in the freezer. We had turned around once already for a few things I forgot, so the sexy stainless shaker didn’t get to impress the crowd.

My plan was to make three different drinks and potentially some variations of each based on the feedback. The theme with the flavors was assertive fruit flavors and nice crisp acidity to quench thirst on a hot day.
  1. Lavender Martini
  2. Basil Vodka Gimlet
  3. Cranberry Vodka Cosmo
I led off with a Lavender Martini (pic on the right) containing a vodka base with 1 part vodka, 1 part dry vermouth and 1 part lavender syrup. Assembled in shaker with ice, shaken and strained into glasses. Everyone who wanted to try any of the drinks got a small glassful. I filled full glass re-orders a bit later.

The immediate reaction was that it was too sweet. I even thought so. I moved on to the Cosmo knowing I would be back to the lavender recipe shortly.

The Cosmo included 1 part cranberry vodka, 1 part triple-sec, ½ part blueberry/pomegranate juice and a splash of lime juice. Same drill; assemble, mix and strain. This one hit with flying colors. Just the right amount of sweet and plenty of tartness from the cranberry, blueberry and pomegranate. I made several more batches of these before moving on. The last picture below is of this drink.

I got back to the lavender martini and swapped in gin for the vodka, reduced the lavender syrup to ½ part and kept the vermouth as it was. Bingo! I like the botanicals in gin so this one was more complex and exciting for me. I could see sticking with the vodka and keeping the syrup reduction for a less assertive and clean tasting drink. I didn’t make it that way because nobody asked.
The final drink was the Basil Vodka Gimlet, which can be seen in the picture at the top of the blog. I had worked out what I thought was a pretty good recipe for this at home and went with that. One part basil vodka, 1 part lime juice, ½ part simple syrup. Shaken and strained again. This one ended up winning the day. The response to the basil vodka was more than expected. It is unmistakable, but not overpowering in this drink. I had some requests to try it straight up, which I thought would be interesting. If you haven’t had it before you should seek it out or make it home (recipe below). I still have to work out a good recipe for a dry martini using the basil vodka. My initial trials were not pleasing.

The basil vodka was created using ½ of a 1.75 L bottle of Smirnoff 100 and a handful of sweet basil from my garden. I placed the washed basil in a canning jar with the vodka, closed it and shook it twice daily for 4 days. Once I felt I had a good flavorful infusion I strained off the basil and put the vodka in a clean wine bottle with a reusable cork stopper. The cranberry vodka was made using a similar process and the other half of the bottle of vodka, except that it was left to sit for 25 days, shaken twice per day. Infusion times for various ingredients’ vary and using high proof vodka is recommended for the best flavor extraction.

I found an article at with some good tips on vodka infusions. 
I have some additional infusions in mind including black pepper and vanilla. My jalapeno wine is almost ready as well, and I think that will fit prominently into my ongoing mixology adventures.




Lisa | Authentic Suburban Gourmet said...

That lavender martini sounds INCREDIBLE! It is a must make for me. I have archived your post!

Pam @ Sticks Forks Fingers said...

Terrific post, Jason. Your lavendar martini has me inspired... I think I'll add a splash of Creme de Violette either before shaking, or to the bottom of the glass to add a layer of lavendar color.

Some of the fun for me is making up names to go along with the cocktail, usually after a guest of honor or holiday related names. This can get really silly, especially after a sip or two!

Magic of Spice said...

You so know how to pack a cooler:) Love the lavender martini...well I actually love them all but I was trying to subdue my enthusiasm:)

Wendy@The Omnivorous Bear said...

Oh Jason...I am so with you on flavoured vodkas! basil and tomato essence is fdabulous.... but I haven't made lavender vodka! I have a huge pot on the blacony that I may have to snip at. What a brilliant idea!