Homemade Cocktails — Experiments, Critiques & Travels
Yes, it is officially Autumn, and though the leaves are turning and there’s a slight chill in the air, things are still pretty green down here in Georgia. There’s the 70-something temperatures, the fresh basil, the continuing crop of peppers and eggplants, the sound of lawn mowers beating the grass into submission — life is rough. The hummingbirds and geese have taken off, however — perhaps they know something that we don’t.
Anyway, Ed — the New York blogger behind Wordsmithing Pantagruel — is the host of this week’s Mixology Monday, and he has decided to pay tribute to the disappearing days of summer by requesting a round of green drinks. The drinks themselves don’t have to be green, mind you, they just have to have something green included in their making: garnish, liquor, modifier, anything. [UPDATE: Be sure to check out the round-up post — lots of cocktailians were thinking green on Monday] Here’s an original drink that’s packed full of green and mixed for just such an occasion:
- 1-1/4 ounce 13th Colony Southern Gin
- 1-1/4 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
- 1 ounce Lime Juice
- 3 sprigs of Lemon-Thyme
- 2 fresh Bay Laurel Leaves
- Spritz of Leopold Bros. Absinthe Verte (to wash the glass)
- Sprig of Tarragon (to garnish)
Muddle the lemon thyme and bay leaves with the gin, St. G, and lime. Shake and fine-strain the mixture over a large chunk of ice in a double rocks glass that has been spritzed with absinthe. Garnish with the sprig of tarragon.
So, what’s the Jacques like? The immediate impression, the nose, is heavy on the anise flavors of the absinthe and tarragon, both of which provide a cooling effect. The 13th Colony gin, with its crisp notes of lavender, coriander, celery, and carrots, provides a nice backbone for the drink; any heavier on the juniper, and things would get too pine-y. The St. Germain and lime provide the sweet & sour balance, of course, but the St. G. also acts as a kind of binder, helping to blend the flavor of the herbs with that of the gin.
To match the cooler, crisper scent of the absinthe and tarragon, I’ve included herbs that are a bit more savory: Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) and bay laurel (Laurus nobilus), both of which are thriving in our backyard herb garden. The lemon thyme is deeply refreshing, with a zingy citrus accent that precludes the use of citrus zests or lemon bitters, while the bay leaves provide an herbal bass note that is somewhat sweet or resin-like, and that’s less funky than sage. If I had a bit more time on my hands, say one or two weeks, I might try infusing the gin with the bay and lemon-thyme to cut down on the prep time — a future experiment, perhaps.
Apart from the obviously green items (the lime, herbs, and absinthe), I like to think that the Jacques gets extra points for being “green” in another way: the use of local ingredients. Incorporating the herbs and produce from our garden into my drinks can sometimes be a challenge — I really should make use of them more often. I’m particularly glad that the local gin worked out so well in the Jacques. I think that the one thing the booming Atlanta cocktail culture needs right now (aside from a serious Tiki bar) is locally-made liquor.
As far as I can tell, we’ve got three options, which is an improvement compared to last year, when we only had one. First, there’s 13th Colony in Americus, which produces some nice whiskey and gin and has been around the longest. Ivy Mountain Distillery in Mt. Airy, which launched only recently, is making sour mash whiskey and moonshine, plus an apple brandy that’s either a liqueur or an eau-de-vie (I haven’t tried it yet). Finally, there’s the Georgia Distilling Company down in Milledgeville, which is producing corn whiskey, vodka, and the Grandaddy Mimm’s line, which includes apple and peach brandies (again, I’m unsure of their nature). Despite Dawsonville’s history as the moonshine capitol (think NASCAR and bootleggers) and our state’s strong agricultural roots, Georgia distilling hasn’t quite taken off. Perhaps the craft of distillation hasn’t made strong in-roads through the Bible Belt states, I don’t know. I realize that good whiskey takes time to age and that the economy is sluggish, but it seems our neighbors are doing well: Tennessee has Corsair and South Carolina now has Firefly and American Spirits (though the latter is partly produced in Georgia). Yes, the South has always had bourbon, but that’s way up in Kentucky — something closer to home is needed.
Right now, Atlanta has successfully grafted a cocktail culture on to a restaurant scene that is increasingly well-educated and focused on local agriculture. We’ve moved beyond the first phase of re-learning and perfecting classic drinks, mixing technique, and thorough service in a handful of bars (see: Holeman & Finch). The current stage involves the proliferation of quality cocktail programs, the origination and variation of drinks, and the development of house-made ingredients. I predict that the next phase will involve “locavore” cocktails that are hyper-focused on seasonality and locally-made spirits and liqueurs, and that bars and restaurants in Atlanta will begin demanding Georgia-made liquor to accompany Georgia-grown produce. Georgia breweries are booming, growler stores are multiplying like rabbits, and there is a steady presence of winemakers with vineyards in north Georgia — all we need now is the hard stuff. The day we’re able to sip an authentic, Georgia-made peach brandy — not a syrupy liqueur, but the true, aged eau-de-vie that the South was once famous for — will be a joyous one.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. Go mix up a green drink and give Summer a proper send-off!
Photos by IJL.
PS: I’m submitting this drink in the St. Germain 5th-Annual Can-Can Classic. Good luck to all who enter! Maybe some of us bloggers will win a bicycle!
“Jack in the Green” by Jethro Tull
Have you seen Jack-In-The-Green?
With his long tail hanging down.
He sits quietly under every tree —
in the folds of his velvet gown.
He drinks from the empty acorn cup
the dew that dawn sweetly bestows.
And taps his cane upon the ground —
signals the snowdrops it’s time to grow.
It’s no fun being Jack-In-The-Green —
no place to dance, no time for song.
He wears the colours of the summer soldier —
carries the green flag all the winter long.
Jack, do you never sleep —
does the green still run deep in your heart?
Or will these changing times,
keep us apart?
Well, I don’t think so —
I saw some grass growing through the pavements today.
The rowan, the oak and the holly tree
are the charges left for you to groom.
Each blade of grass whispers Jack-In-The-Green.
Oh Jack, please help me through my winter’s night.
And we are the berries on the holly tree.
Oh, the mistlethrush is coming,
Jack, put out the light!