Like a lot of my cocktailian friends, the Aviation is one of the drinks that really got me into cocktails a while back. Lured by the appeal of a cocktail with a beautiful pale blue hue, for months (years?) I looked for that elusive bottle of violet liqueur. When I finally put my hands on one, the Aviation became my go-to cocktail for a while and was what I would serve to my friends at cocktail parties. I loved how refreshing and interesting it was, despite having only a few ingredients.
I had pretty much given up on this month’s MxMo and its resinaceous theme. For some reason, I did not feel especially inspired and could not see myself buying a special ingredient to be able to fit with the theme.
Like Monsieur Jourdain who eventually realized that he had been speaking in prose his entire life, unbeknownst to me I had actually been playing with resin for a few weeks. And I came to the realization that I had three cocktails that were perfect for this month’s challenge.
Gum syrup is made from gum Arabic, a resin that is obtained from the sap of the acacia tree. Also known as gomme (French for gum), it used to be a common ingredient in cocktails in the late 1800s. It can be used in place of simple syrup and, as an added bonus, its high viscosity changes the texture of the cocktail. The gum syrup that I use is made by Small Hands Foods in San Francisco.
First I tried it in a Whiskey Old Fashioned with Buffalo Trace bourbon. The resulting cocktail had a rich texture that made it very approachable and dangerously smooth.
Ok, so if you really like absinthe please do me a favor. DON’T try this drink. It’s not the worst drink I’ve ever had, but it is not by any means a good use of absinthe, even though it is featured on the St. George website. Their absinthe itself is delicious and delicate, but this Green Russian cocktail, which is nothing else than a White Russian spiked with a generous dose of absinthe verte, manages to mask all these qualities.
First it hits you with intense and unpleasant bitterness. When you finally recover (it takes a while) you start to taste things beyond the bitterness. But it never comes together, and overall the absinthe and the coffee just clash and fight each other in this drink. Only try at your own risk!
I went to a St. George Spirits tasting a few months ago, and since then have not been able to get their absinthe verte out of my mind. Lance Winters, their master distiller, created an atypical absinthe that uses star anise and a number of herbs which include mint, tarragon, basil, and even stinging nettles. Instead of being an overpowering licorice experience, the absinthe verte has a very interesting herbal flavor.
Most cocktails use only a dash or a rinse of absinthe, and I’ve survived all these years using pastis in recipes calling for absinthe. So for the first cocktail I made at home using the St. George absinthe I decided to go all out and go with an absinthe frappée. It’s another one of these lazy summer drinks that can be made directly in the glass.
The fix is a very old recipe dating back to the days of Jerry Thomas, and it could not be easier. It’s a gin sour on crushed ice and that’s pretty much it. We’ve explored the Bramble before and its rum-based cousin the Rumble, but here we don’t use fruit or fruit liqueur in the drink, just gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. It’s good for those lazy muggy summer days because it can be built directly in the glass and swizzled.
When you have a fantastically flavorful gin like St. George Terroir, simple is the way to go. It allows you can appreciate the California coast aromas of the gin – Douglas fir, sage, and bay laurel.