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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

They Had Me At "Champagne"

I’m not a fan of overwrought cuisine. I never understood the “molecular gastronomy” fad or the flavored “foam” fad.  Why would anyone think this would appeal to human beings?

Along with the food fads have also come drink fads, namely the appearance of “mixologists.” Can you imagine the pretentiousness of adding “ologist” to other, non-PhD type professions? Like, “I need a plumbologist to come fix my toilet.” Or, “Can you ask our servologist to bring us the dessert menu?” It’s ridiculous. No offense to you mixologists out there, but to make a drink you put booze and ice in a glass. If you want to get fancy you add an olive or slice of lemon. It’s not rocket science.
However, I have to admit that some good things have come out of the mixologist fad. They have produced some refreshing twists on old favorites, most notably the introduction of the increasingly popular herbal cocktail. 

I’ve been thinking about cocktails a lot lately. After a miserably cold early spring, Kansas City has suddenly rocketed into the 90s. Dignity and our stubborn midwest nature prevents many of us from turning on the air conditioning before June, so it has been HOT. 

Enough with the ceiling fans Mom...let's get some A/C.

In an effort to cool off, I’ve decided to go beyond the infusion of vodka into heretofore unknown territory: I’ve been experimenting herb-infused cocktails, with surprisingly good and refreshing results (just call me a refreshologist). I was especially inspired after discovering a recipe for lavender infused champagne, a concoction that combines two of my very favorite things in life! Oh mixologists, you’ve found my weakness. I give in to your ridiculous title (don’t hold your breath molecular gastronomists).
Of the one’s I’ve subjected my friends and family to thus far, these three have been the favorites. Some of the recipes require advanced preparation (like popping grapes in the freezer before work) but none of them are complicated. The ingredients are all easy to find and inexpensive (no rare extracts of mung bean or anything). Enjoy!!
Blackberry Mint Julep (serves 4)
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1 pint blackberries
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup bourbon
4 cups small ice cubes
4 sprigs mint, for garnishing
1. Roughly chop mint leaves.
2. Puree the mint, blackberries, and sugar in a blender. Press through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard         seeds.
3. Rinse blender, then return puree to blender, and add bourbon and small ice cubes; blend until smooth. Divide mixture among 4 glasses. Garnish each with a mint sprig.
Lavender Champagne (serves 4-6)
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 tablespoon dried lavender
1 bottles (750 mL) dry Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
Fresh lavender sprigs, for garnish
1. Bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in dried lavender. Remove from heat. Let cool completely. Strain out lavender. Refrigerate syrup until ready to serve (up to 1 month).
2. Pour about 6 ounces Champagne and 1 1/2 teaspoons syrup into each flute. Garnish each with a lavender sprig.

Biano with Frozen Grapes (serves 4-6)
1/2 lb. grapes, preferably a large, seedless variety such as Red Globe, plucked from the stems
1  3-inch sprig fresh rosemary
1  3-inch sprig fresh mint
1  bottle (750ml) Sauvignon Blanc wine
1  3-inch strip lemon zest (pared with a vegetable peeler)
1. Rinse the grapes and pat them dry. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze until solid, for several hours or overnight.
2. Rinse the herbs well. Open the wine bottles, stuff the rosemary and mint springs and the strip of lemon zest into the bottle, recork, and refrigerate for 6 hours, or overnight.
3. To serve, set out glasses, put 3 to 5 frozen grapes (depending on size) in each glass, and pour in the chilled bianco.

My little laboratory
Mum's burgeoning herb garden

If this leap into the world of herbal cocktailing seems like too much all at once, I suggest taking baby steps. An easy way to do this is to start infusing your on vodka. A few months ago my mom and I started doing this. Compliments of a few Costco bottles of Skyy vodka, we have experimented with pear, ginger, cucumber, lemon, basil and thyme infusions. As a result, ginger and basil vodkas are now permanent fixtures in our household. 

Be creative. Be bold. Find your inner mixologist.

1 comment:

  1. I sent the link for this blog to my mom's friend. She's all over cocktails and is going to try one of the recipes.