Sympathy for the strawberry

Strawberries in cocktails, I know what you think, it just brings back memories of awful strawberry “daiquiris” or other sickly sweet concoctions. But sometimes (most times) it’s good to keep an open mind.

I recently bought a bottle of Dorothy Parker gin at the recommendation of a cocktailian friend. This gin, in addition to its Juniper backbone, has floral notes including hibiscus and elderberries that got me a bit stuck at first. But why not look to classics for inspiration… In the Savoy Cocktail Book, there always seem to be pearls hidden between endless Martini variations. Case in point, the Bloodhound, which is actually a “perfect” Martini, incorporating both sweet and dry vermouths. The particularity of the Bloodhound is that it adds fresh strawberries to the mix. Strawberries are in season and grown locally here in San Diego, and pairing them with the hibiscus notes from the gin sounded like a good idea.

For the sweet vermouth, I did not want aything too sweet, so I opted for Punt e Mes which combines dark berry flavors with an underlying bitterness. I did not bother muddling the strawberries, so the taste ended up on the subtle side. It’s probably best to muddle them a bit, unless your shake is especially energetic and your strawberries super ripe.

The resulting cocktail is is very much anchored in Martini territory, with the bonus of strawberry undertones and a beautiful color. The sweet vermouth and strawberry pairing is a very nice one that also works well in desserts – think strawberries macerated in red wine. Also the Dorothy Parker gin was especially well suited for this cocktail which allowed its unique flavor to shine.

 

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1.5 oz gin | 3/4 oz sweet vermouth | 3/4 oz dry vermouth | 1 muddled strawberry | shake | fine strain into coupe | strawberry garnish

Strawberries worked well in this gin-based cocktail, and they can also be used with tequila to good effect. Charles H. Baker Jr.’s in The Gentleman’s Companion talks about Tequila por Mi Amante, a slow infusion of fresh strawberries in tequila which requires a few weeks to develop its flavor. If time is a concern, Lindsay Nader’s Resting Point is a great option. It combines aged tequila with Punt e Mes, yellow Chartreuse, lemon juice, agave syrup, and muddled strawberries. It looks very much like a girly drink but really it’s not. With the aged tequila the cocktail is smoky and robust.

 

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1.5 oz aged tequila | 1/2 oz sweet vermouth | 1/2 oz yellow Chartreuse | 1/2 oz lemon juice | 1/2 oz agave syrup* | 1 muddled strawberry | shake | fine strain into coupe | strawberry garnish

(*) prepared by diluting agave nectar 1:1 with water

To round this post off, let’s take things to Tiki Land because that’s what the blog is about… Named after the old name for St Lucia (“Land of Iguanas”), Richard Boccato’s Louanalao is normally made with the island’s rum, Chairman’s Reserve silver. I did not have it on hand so I used Flor de Cana 4 year white rum. The cocktail is an interesting alliance of Campari with allspice, lime and strawberry. It’s refreshing, tropical, a little tart, and with intriguing spices. It reminds me of the Jungle Bird which is one of the rare tiki drinks that use Campari, but feels light & more subtle.

Louanalao (Richard Boccato): white rum, campari, allspice dram, lime juice, cane syrup, muddled strawberry

1.5 oz white rum |1 oz lime juice | 1/2 oz Campari | 1/4 oz allspice | 1/2 oz cane syrup or rich syrup | 1 muddled strawberry | shake | strain into ice-filled double rocks glass | orange wheel and strawberry garnish

 

More inspiration:

Strawberries are a traditional garnish in Pimm’s Cup. Drawing on this inspiration, The Monks Gone Wild at The Lion’s Share in San Diego pairs strawberry-infused Pimm’s with green Chartreuse, lemon juice, and ginger beer (pictured on the right).

Excellent cocktails at The Lion's Share : Federal Buffalo Stamp and Monks Gone Wild

Strawberries also work surprisingly well with Cynar. The Talbott Leaf from PDT is a great demonstration with bourbon as the base spirit, lemon juice, green Chartreuse, Cynar, mint, and strawberry preserves.

Talbott Leaf from PDT: bourbon, lemon, Chartreuse, Cynar, mint, strawberry preserves!

2 oz bourbon | 3/4 lemon juice | 1/2 oz green Chartreuse | 1/4 oz Cynar | 1 barspoon strawberry preserves | 6 mint leaves | shake | strain into coupe | mint leaf garnish

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