There’s so much I want to write about right now, so many things happening in the garden, some good, some weird. So many delicious things I’ve been eating and drinking, some gorgeous cookbooks I’ve been having fun with, writing deadlines from goals I set for myself that I’ve been trying to meet while my two mini-dictators still insist on me actually paying every single second of my attention to them, and weird, weird computer photo issues driving me insane.
But since we are having another gorgeous weekend here (I’m pretty sure I’m bragging at this point), let’s combine the garden, food & drinks, and cookbooks together, and make some homemade syrups from the plants growing in the garden, so that we can use those syrups in some delicious, refreshing cocktails, alcoholic and non-alcoholic in case your kids are like mine and they like to mix up their own concoctions.
I love that there are so many fruits and veggies in my garden that I can pick and eat directly, strawberries, tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, blueberries. From the plant to my mouth in just a few seconds, delicious and rewarding. I also love making cool, yummy, beautiful things from what’s growing in my garden, especially in ways that preserve the fresh flavors.
Lately I’m really into making syrups. A few weeks ago I checked out the book, Date Night In: More Than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship by Ashley Rodriguez from the library and fell in love.
I almost went out and bought myself a copy but I’m pretty sure the shelves in my kitchen, where I keep all my cookbooks, would come crashing down if I added one more book to the masses. So until I can de-clutter the madness of my cookbooks and cooking magazines, the library will have to do. Hopefully the de-cluttering will happen soon because I need to own this book.
I love this cookbook for the stories and the intention behind it all, but even more for the recipes and photographs. The recipe for Rhubarb Sour caught my eye for several reasons, the first of which was the gorgeous, romantic looking photograph of the pale pink cocktail with a thin lemon slice floating on top. I’m a sucker for a pretty photo, and by the way, her photo is so much prettier than mine. Then I looked at the ingredients (gin, fresh lemon juice and rhubarb syrup) and decided I had to make it, especially since I love cocktails with gin, and coincidentally my rhubarb was delivering a strong second growth in the garden and I couldn’t wait to make something unique with it. If you like cocktails with gin that are also tart and a little bit sweet, you will love this one.
Syrups, I’ve discovered, are super easy to make. I made the rhubarb syrup, which is pretty much ready to use right away, and was amazed at the flavor, so I went on to make the mint syrup from the cookbook, Toro Bravo by John Gorham & Liz Crain.
I used the mint syrup to make the Flor de Caña Fix from Toro Bravo, but the syrup is also perfect for mojitos or any other cocktail that requires mint muddled in sugar.
Lily took both syrups and made her own drinks. At first she just added a bit of syrup and seltzer to ice, but then she got more creative. Into the rhubarb seltzer mixture she added a bit of orange juice and then chocolate sauce. No way in heck I’m tasting that, I thought. Sure enough, no sooner did the thought cross my mind when she said, “Here you have to taste this, Mama. It tastes just like a tootsie roll pop.” You know what, it tasted exactly like an orange tootsie roll pop, weirdly delicious and gross at the same time.
To make a syrup you need hot water, sugar and whatever ingredient you are flavoring your syrup with, rhubarb, mint, cucumber, thyme, ginger, so many options. And even if you don’t have a garden, now is the time to get all these fresh ingredients from your local farmer’s market or grocery store.
Each time I open the jars of flavored syrups I’m hit with these intense scents of fresh, sweet mint or rhubarb. Talk about aromatherapy. I’m going to try thyme next, and of course lemon. Then I’m diving right into the book, Infuse; Oil, Spirit, Water by Eric Prum & Josh Williams (which I got Greg for his birthday) to make all kinds of cool infused concoctions like their Salted Lime Syrup. Yum!
I’m including the recipes for the syrups and the two cocktails; I hope you enjoy them. Happy weekend everyone, and happy syrup making!
- 3 ounces gin
- 3 ounces Rhubarb Syrup (recipe follows)
- 1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Lemon peel (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
- Combine the gin, rhubarb syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into two small coupe glasses. Garnish with lemon peel and a little freshly grated nutmeg if desired.
- 1 pound chopped rhubarb
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- Additional flavorings: cinnamon stick, freshly grated nutmeg, vanilla bean or citrus peel
- Place the rhubarb, sugar, water and your choice of flavorings into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly so the mixture continues to boil gently for 15 minutes, or until it is reduced by nearly half. The rhubarb will break down and the liquid will get syrupy. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature.
- When cool, strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve. Transfer the syrup to a storage container with a lid. It will keep covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 ounces Flor de Cana 7-year rum (There are many different Flor de Canas but 7-year is the best. It's aged in the barrel and has great flavor.)
- 3/4 ounce mint syrup
- 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 bar spoon Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur made with brandy)
- 1 1/2 ounce ginger beer
- Sprig of mint
- Put the bitters, rum, mint syrup, lime juice, and ginger liqueur into a Collins glass (a cylindrical glass tumbler that holds 10 to 14 ounces) with ice, stir for 1 to 15 seconds.
- Top with ginger beer, garnish with mint and serve.
- I could only find Flor de Cana 4-year and the cocktail was still delicious.
- 1 large bunch mint
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups boiling water
- Place all of the ingredients in a quart container that can withstand high heat, stir, and let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover, transfer to the refrigerator, and let sit for a minimum of 24 hours. The longer you let the mint infuse the deeper the flavor and color.
- Strain and serve. Keep tightly covered and refrigerated for up to a month.