Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Rosemary-Cucumber Gin Fizz

As Spring takes its sweet-ass time rolling into New York, and produce of the season anew is on the forefront of our minds but not yet in our hands, I would like to remind you of one warm-weather phenomenon that we can count on for punctuality: cocktails! While we patiently await for asparagus, peas, and sun; bartenders, busy behind counters, work their dexterous magic to revive cocktail menus for the season of rebirth. Get ready for fresh herbs, spritely citrus, and vibrant vegetables to whip mimosas, gimlets, and Pimm's cups into seasonal shape! But locking up those mulled wines and hot toddy's with your winter puffer is only the first step— do not underestimate the serious thought required in creating your ultimate springtime imbibement. Luckily, I've given it lots.

Many factors must be weighed in the making of a solid springtime cocktail. Is it light enough to feel warm-weather appropriate, yet suitably flavorful to hold your interest? Does it acknowledge the juices, spices, citruses, and other edible accouterments of the season, yet boast an ingredient list that is common and pantry item plenty? Finally, does it taste fair-weather nectarous, without screaming sugar hangover in the morning? Answering a firm "yes" to each of these questions, I introduce to you a Rosemary-Cucumber Gin Fizz to sip into Spring.

A quick tutorial on our spirit of the hour. While many associate gin with the English, its origins actually trace back to 16-century Holland, where it was used mostly for medicinal purposes. Gin's blend of herbs and aromatics were believed to "guard against all the ills to which flesh was heir." Chief among those aromatics is juniper, its Dutch translation, genever, is the linguistic root of the word gin. But for gin's distinguishing strong perfume, juniper cannot take all the credit— licorice, dried citrus peel, caraway, and coriander seeds also contribute to the spirit's unique bouquet.

So, what do all all of these herbs and aromatics mean for us? Basically, versatility is the name of the game—we can blend our gin with all sorts of liquors and fruit juices! But remember, our libation is a marathon, not a sprint, so subtly is key.

Aside from gin, this drink has only five ingredients —lemon, sugar, seltzer, rosemary, and cucumber—and each component plays an essential role. The first three comprise a classic “fizz” base; combining sour with effervescence to kick-start our taste buds. Rosemary brings an herbal twist; infusing woodsy, evergreen notes into the simple syrup that nod to the gin’s natural aromatics and also quell the tartness of the lemon. The finishing touch is a cucumber slice, a tangible token of ubiquitous refreshment. Lightly herbal, revitalizing, and delicate: it's quite spa-esque, and it's quite delish.
I've provided a recipe for one (strong) cocktail and enough simple syrup for about twenty—really, this drink begs to be made as a pitcher. If you enjoy rosemary, let the sprigs steep in the simple syrup for a few hours to achieve maximum flavor. (The syrup can be prepared ahead and chilled for about 1 week.) Also, feel free to experiment with your herbs and citruses: consider swapping the rosemary for basil, or lemon for lime, a la gimlet.
Rosemary-Cucumber Gin Fizz (adapted from Sassy Radish)
Makes 1 drink and 2 cups rosemary syrup

¼ cup (2 oz) gin
½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup sugar
Ice cubes
Cold club soda
Cucumber slice
4 rosemary springs +1 extra sprig for garnish

1. Make the rosemary syrup: Combine 2 cups water, the sugar, and the 4 rosemary sprigs in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over moderately low heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the syrup and chill.
2. In a tall glass, stir the gin, lemon juice and 1 ½ tablespoons of rosemary syrup.
3 Fill the glass halfway with ice; top with club soda. Add the cucumber slice. Garnish with the rosemary and serve.

Reference: Walton, Stuart. The Bartender's Guide to Mixing 600 Cocktails & Drinks. London: Anness Publishing Ltd, 2009. Print.

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