I am a terrible gardener. So far this year I have killed two pots of lavender, one of peppermint, one of lemon verbena, three of borage and five of tomatoes. But in spite of this floricidal rampage, I still feel an affiliation with the ‘grow your own’ school of bartending.
I will now have to rely on farmers markets, foraging, friends and Freecyclers to get fresh, local produce for infusing and home-brewing. It’s lucky then, that the most abundant time of year for foraging is fast approaching. And, serendipitously, I also came across a new source of recipes and ideas at the Imbibe drinks show last week.
I sat in on a session run by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown on this very topic. I suspect they were largely preaching to the converted but they did share a few handy tips and recipes, like using young beech leaves to produce a green and nutty tasting liqueur (a new one to me – I look forward to testing this out next spring). A few of the recipes are online at Slow Drinks – it’s a new venture but hopefully they will post more there soon.
The session ended with three bartenders sharing their home-grown ingredients and recipes with the audience, with samples, all of which were imaginative and delicious.
First up was Mattia Pastori from Milan with a fresh variation on an Italian classic cocktail – the Bellini. Perfect for the hot weekend ahead.
2 pieces of peach
1 tsp lemon verbena sugar
100 ml Prosecco
Muddle the peach, sugar and raspberries in a tall glass. Fill with cracked ice and top up with Prosecco. Gently mix with a long spoon.
Tip: To make the sugar allow some lemon verbena leaves to dry a little. Place in an airtight jar of sugar and leave for a week, then remove the leaves. For instant use, you could try simmering some leaves in a 2:1 sugar:water mix for ten minutes, then cool before using.
Next was John Clay from Shaker Bar School, with a modern twist on an old school fruit cup. It was herby and, according to my tasting notes, “bloody gorgeous”.
I didn’t get the quantities for this but the ingredients list ran like this:
Which would lead you to expect the bibulous equivalent of a school-kids paint palette: so many ingredients you end up with a sludgy mess. But in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing, the result is a deep-pink dose of deliciousness. Then again, I’m biased as I love beetroot…
Hopefully, I will get a chance to recreate this in the next couple of weeks – any success I will share online.
Robert Wood of The Kenilworth finished the demonstration with his own Pimms style cup (unfortunately you’ll need to go to Warwickshire to taste this) and a blackcurrant and liquorice cocktail, reminiscent of a Clover Club, and inspired by Black Jack chews.
I think he got a little muddled here as Black Jacks taste of aniseed and the blackcurrant/ liquorice combination was a boiled sweet with the rather apt sobriquet of ‘Blackcurrant and Liquorice’. But the drink tasted so good, I really shouldn’t quibble.
2 blackcurrant infused Beefeater Gin (containing cloves, lemon, orange peel and sugar)
1 lemon juice
1 liquorice root syrup
Good dash of egg white
Hard shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a martini glass.