Tempered Spirits

Homemade Cocktails — Experiments, Critiques & Travels

MxMo LXXIII: Bay Laurel from the Witches’ Garden


Once again, it’s time for Mixology Monday! Mr. Mark Holmes, of Cardiff Cocktails, is hosting, and he’s looking for a batch of herbal cocktails. Roots, spices, and beans can be used as ingredients as well…

[Update: Check out Mark’s Roundup for MxMo LXXIII]

As far back as we can look, the use of fresh herbs have been prevalent in the world of mixed drinks…So lets take influence from the bartenders that once ruled the world of mixology, raid your herb garden that too often gets neglected, and start mixing.

I wouldn’t call our herb garden “neglected” as  it’s used often and well, though I admit it’s usually overgrown and full of weeds. Despite that fact, it provides a steady supply of rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, tarragon, and sage (not to mention catnip). There’s also a bunch of invasive garlic chives (they can’t be stopped!).

BayHoneySyrup (4 of 6)

The pride and joy of the herb garden, though, is our bay laurel tree — a bit of an anomaly here in middle Georgia, as it usually gets just cold enough to kill off any freestanding bays. Ours, however, faces west-southwest and is protected by two banks of evergreens, a retaining wall, and the house. As a result, the bay tree stays nice and toasty, flourishing in a micro-climate that is not far from that of Tuscany. And it’s begging to be used in cocktails…

Destination Rome

Destination Rome

  • 1-1/2 ounces Ivy Mountain Georgia Peach Brandy
  • 3/4 ounce Bay-Honey Syrup
  • 3/4 ounce Lemon Juice
  • 8 drops (1 dash) Bittercube Blackstrap Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass.

When it’s combined with the musky mellowness of a homemade bay-infused honey syrup, the peach brandy becomes even more peachy, tasting older than it actually is. The bitters provide a nice caramel/molasses/cinnamon accent that rounds out the drink and brings it closer to our honey-thyme glazed grilled peaches that inspired the drink in the first place. As it warms, the drink becomes sweeter, so feel free to cut the syrup back to 1/2 oz. Should you wish to experiment further, try evenly splitting the sweet components between a peach liqueur (like Leopold Bros. Peach-Flavored Whiskey) and bay-honey syrup. Thyme-sage-honey syrup also works well, but results in a more woody, piney drink.

Oh, the name? That would be Rome, Georgia — not Rome, Italy. The phrase comes from a Gregg Allman song, “Multicolored Lady.” Given the bay laurel’s association with Rome — think laurel wreaths and Caesar — and the Allman Brothers’ association with Georgia — think Macon, Capricorn Records, and “Eat A Peach” — I figured the name was a natural fit.

BayHoneySyrup (2 of 6)

Oh, and yes, a peach brandy! From Georgia! Finally! It’s a great product from Ivy Mountain Distillery in Mt. Airy, up in the North Georgia mountains, and, not being aged for long, it’s much like a peach eau de vie…a few more years in the barrel, and they’ll have a wonderful peach brandy. I’ve been playing around with it quite a bit lately, and I’m betting that it will make a mighty fine Georgia Mint Julep.

Seeking out another use for my bay-honey syrup, I turned to another one of our dinner dishes for inspiration, which combines chopped, roasted apples and sweet potatoes with bay leaves. Mmm, apples — honey pairs well with them, too, so I went with an apple brandy base for the next drink…

BayHoneySyrup (5 of 6)

All Glory is Fleeting

  • 1-1/2 ounces Calvados [Busnel Vielle Reserve VSOP]
  • 1/2 ounce Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce Bay-Honey Syrup
  • 3/4 ounce Lemon Juice
  • 8 drops Cinnamon Tincture

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass.

Tastes remarkably like a sweetened apple cider! Here the apricot liqueur lends an additional dose of fruitiness and melds the calvados, syrup, and lemon together — I often employ it as a kind of “binder” for flavors that almost, but not quite, fit together. You can use American apple brandy in the drink, but it’s a bit more straightforward, lacking that complex Calvados muskiness that works so well with the bay laurel.

I suppose you’d like recipes for those specialty ingredients: the bay-honey syrup and cinnamon tincture. Both are relatively simple to make, so no worries…

BayHoneySyrup (6 of 6)

Bay-Honey Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 6-8 Fresh Bay Laurel Leaves [use the darker, older leaves closer to the base of the stems at the bottom of the tree, as they have more flavor than the newer, greener leaves]

Make several small tears along each bay leaf and clap it between your hands — this will release more of the oils and flavor. Combine the honey, water, and bay in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as the mixture boils, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and allow it to cool to room temperature. Strain, bottle, and refrigerate.

Cinnamon Tincture

Crush or break up the cinnamon sticks and combine with the grain alcohol in an airtight glass jar. Let the mixture infuse for one week, then strain out the solids and bottle.

Adapted from Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Recipe.

If you’re unfamiliar with or curious about bay leaves, they have a subtle, piney, resin-like scent and taste. They’re sweeter and mellower than, say, rosemary, and not as funky as sage, with a hint of lemon peel. Though bay leaves can be dried and stored for a long time, fresh leaves have a livelier flavor, and I always prefer them to the dried variety.

Regarding the cinnamon tincture, you’re essentially making cinnamon vodka or a single-ingredient batch of bitters. I made up my jar of tincture before serving the Autumn Leaves (by Jeffrey Morgenthaler) at our Fall cocktail party, and it works remarkably well in any drink involving apples or apple brandy.


Photos by IJL.

7 comments on “MxMo LXXIII: Bay Laurel from the Witches’ Garden

  1. David Pearson
    May 19, 2013

    Destination Rome sounds fantastico!

  2. ceccotti
    May 28, 2013

    I tried to make some laurel mojitos, but could extract the flavors, will try the syrup!

    • IJ Lauer
      May 29, 2013

      A syrup or an infusion is probably the way to go, as bay leaves impart a very subtle flavor and might disappear when simply shaken or muddled (I actually tried muddling first, and then decided that, as you mention, it didn’t extract the flavors well enough).

      I was partly inspired by the Bay Leaf Liqueur in Maggie Savarino’s book, The Seasonal Cocktail Companion. There’s a similar recipe here:


  3. Scott
    May 29, 2013

    Both of these sound delicious. I’ll have to seek out a “real” peach brandy like Ivy Mt. Cheers.

    • IJ Lauer
      May 29, 2013

      Thanks, Scott! Your Green Tea & Basil Smash looks, well, smashing! Lavender bitters may be the next experiment on the list…

      I’d love to taste some aged Ivy Mountain, which would involve aging it myself or waiting a few years. I only know of three aged peach brandies on the market: Dutch’s Spirits (New York), Peach Street (Colorado), and Kuchan (California). The first two are available at http://www.drinkupny.com/ though I haven’t tried any of the three.


  4. Pingback: MxMo XCIII: Blue — The Blue Sky | Tempered Spirits

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