By Jenner Cormier
We are quickly approaching the season where fresh vegetables and fruit are becoming abundant. Adding fresh ingredients from your garden shouldn’t have to be a scary venture when it comes to making cocktails at home.
There are a few different ways of incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables into cocktails — syrups, shrubs, bitters, infusions or muddling fresh ingredients into your cocktails. Muddling preserves a lot of the fresh flavours of seasonal fruit, but it can leave you with lots of unwanted pulp and seeds. Using the right techniques and tools will ensure you deliver both great flavour and a great texture.
Field Berry Dark and Stormy
In a tall glass, add 3 blackberries and 3 blueberries. Muddle a few times firmly to break apart the fruit, then add 3/4 fluid ounce lemon juice, 1/2 fluid ounce honey syrup* and 1 1/2 fluid ounces Bacardi 8 Year Old Rum. Fill the glass with ice, then top glass with 4 fluid ounces ginger beer. Stir to integrate flavours. Garnish with a sprig of mint or a lemon wheel and two straws.
Before You Go
In a cocktail shaker tin, add 4 chunks of red bell pepper. Muddle to break apart the pepper, then add 2 mint leaves, 3/4 fluid ounce lime juice, 3/4 fluid ounce simple syrup**, 1/8 fluid ounce Chartreuse Green and 1 1/4 fluid ounce Citadelle Gin. Fill shaker with ice and shake hard for 8 to 12 seconds. Double strain contents into a stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a mint leaf floating on the surface of the drink.
In a cocktail shaker tin add 3 cucumber slices. Muddle a few times to break apart the cucumber, then add 2 basil leaves, 1 fluid ounce lime juice, 3/4 fluid ounce simple syrup* and 1 1/2 fluid ounces El Jimador Blanco Tequila. Fill shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 8 to 12 seconds. Open lid to shaker and then add soda. Double strain contents into an old fashioned glass over ice. Garnish with a wheel of cucumber and a small sprig of basil.
In a shaker tin add 1/3 plum, cut into chunks. Muddle the plum to extract juice and then add 1 sprig thyme, 1 fluid ounce lime juice, 3/4 fluid ounce honey syrup*, 1/4 fl oz Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth and 1 1/4 fluid ounce Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Fill shaker with ice and shake hard for 8 to12 seconds. Open shaker tin and add 3 fluid ounces soda. Double strain contents into an ice-filled tall glass. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.
*To make honey syrup, place 1 cup water and 1 cup honey in a pot. Bring to a boil. When the honey has fully dissolved, remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate for up to 2 to 3 weeks.
**To make simple syrup, place 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a pot. Bring to a boil. When the sugar has fully dissolved, remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate for up to 2 to 3 weeks.
MUDDLING TIPS AND TOOLS
The Muddler – The best tools for muddling cocktails are long, providing a solid foundation for pulverizing ingredients to extract as much juice or flavour as possible. Not to mention a long muddler will help keep your hands and clothing clean. Some examples of muddling tools you may find in your drawer include: wooden spoons, potato mashers, mini baseball bats, handle of a can opener, a ladle or a small jar. Don’t be led to believe you need to purchase an expensive tool — use your imagination. You probably have a great muddler in a drawer.
The Ingredients – Not all ingredients should be muddled the same way. Fragile ingredients such as fresh herbs (mint, basil, cilantro) should not receive the same aggression as fresh fruit (berries, cherries, kumquats, tomato) or roots (fresh ginger), as this may cause these fragile ingredients to become quite bitter.
Keep it Clean – Keep a napkin or bar rag nearby when muddling fresh ingredients — sometimes you can use it as a ‘shield’ over the opening of the receptacle that you are muddling in to protect your clothing and eyes.
Strain It – Another incredibly useful tool is a tea strainer or fi ne strainer. These small mesh strainers can be found in most kitchen supply stores. When a cocktail recipes calls for ‘double straining’ the liquid passes initially through your Hawthorne or julep strainer and a second time through your fi ne strainer.