When I received a bunch of really fresh celery in my farmers’ market bag yesterday, I immediately knew what I wanted to make. I am not usually a fan of celery – tough, bitter and stringy are the first words that come to mind. But fresh celery is a different matter; it has a fresh green fennel taste and I could see the potential for a nice cocktail. Dave Stolte at Home Bar Basics had published the recipe for the Southern Exposure, a creation by Daniel Hyatt at San Francisco’s Alembic, and I was eager to try it. It is a riff on the Southside that uses celery juice.
To make the juice, some people recommend grating the celery but I decided to cut it into small pieces and mix it in a blender. It was too thick so I added a small amount of water to obtain a very fine puree.
Then I strained the puree into a fine mesh sieve. My cocktail muddler came in handy to push the celery juice through the sieve.
The resulting cocktail was very pleasant and intriguing. At first, it was similar to a Southside with the gin, lime juice and mint combination. Then the celery notes developed to evoke anise. The cocktail almost seems to have a touch of pastis in the finish, and these flavors made me come back to my drink. The Southern Exposure reminds me of one of my favorite cocktails, Audrey Saunders’ French Pearl, another Southside variation, this one with pastis/absinthe. They both have the same anise notes although they are less pronounced in the Southern Exposure. The Southern Exposure tastes more green and is slightly salty.
To accompany my cocktail, I went with Fenacho cheese from Tumalo Farms. It’s a semi-hard goat milk cheese that has nutty notes and is flavored with fenugreek seeds, which have a faint celery flavor. My favorite part of the cheese is the drier part closer to the rind. It was a nice pairing.