• Mixology Monday XCVIII Cocktail: Abeilles et Lavande

    lav5Since we are hosting Mixology Monday (and don’t worry, the due date is 6/15) we thought we should post a few cocktails for our “Hometown Hooch” theme over the next few days- this is our first. Here is the breakdown:

    One of the best recent developments in the world of cocktails and spirits is the reemergence of regional, craft distillers. And we say “reemergence” because 100+ years ago, before the twin scourges of Prohibition and virtual monopolization “industrialization,” distilling was often a truly local endeavor. Not so long ago, if you wanted some booze, it was often made in your neighborhood and for the tastes of the locals. Sadly, for a few generations, that wasn’t the case… But, quite happily, those days are back… There are literally hundreds of local and regional distillers making some seriously tasty spirits… and now is the time for our monthly online cocktail party to send them some love.

    Your quest is simple. Create a new cocktail, or refashion a classic, using your favorite “hometown hooch” (and we can expand the definition of “hooch” to include spirits, liqueurs, aperitifs and beer)… A little local flavor or history on your “hometown hooch” is very welcome.

    We have to admit, we chose this theme because we have a few local distillers in mind; one well-established and nationally recognized, another a new kid on the block. We will start with the new kid on the block, Venus Spirits of Santa Cruz. The brainchild of Sean Venus, Venus Spirits makes a range of booze including whiskeys, aquavit, an excellent tequila (or “agave spirit”, since it is made in the states) and some very tasty gin. Not surprisingly, we really like the gin (the tequila didn’t last long either).

    lavlav1lav2Venus Spirits Gin Blend No. 01 has a cool feature where they show the list of botanicals they use in their gin. In this particular blend, the flavor that truly stands out from the standard juniper and citrus is a delightful touch of lavender. You know the lavender is there but it never dominates or drowns out other flavors. And, most importantly, it doesn’t have any “soapy” flavors you often get with flowers like lavender or violets. With such a unique flavor profile, this is gin worth seeking out.

    lav4As for the cocktail, we decided to use local lavender for inspiration. We have the gin with lavender notes. And as it turns out, Putney Farm honey is mostly lavender and the lavender patch is right by our Meyer lemon tree. From there, we looked at our favorite gin and lemon cocktails and went for a riff on the classic French 75. We sub our lavender honey for sugar syrup, use a local sparking wine instead of champagne and garnish with a lavender flower from the garden. It tastes like a French 75 but with sweet floral aromas and light lavender flavor. A good sip from beginning to end- think lavender lemonade, just better…..way better.

    lav6We call the drink the “Abeilles et Lavande” (translation: Bees and Lavender). This is a serious “hometown hooch” cocktail.  In fact, everything in this drink comes from well within 50 miles….heck, the lemons, honey and lavender come from within 50 yards.

    lav7Abeilles et Lavande:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 1/2 oz. Venus Spirits Gin Blend No. 1*
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 3/4 oz. lavender honey syrup (1-1 honey and hot water)
    • 2-3 oz. sparkling wine or champagne
    • Lavender flowers, for garnish

    * Note, if you can’t get Venus gin but want the lavender flavor, we suggest you lightly infuse a lemon/honey mixture with just a touch of lavender, a little goes a long way.

    Assemble:

    1. Put the gin, lemon and honey syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a chilled flute or coupé. Add the sparkling wine.
    2. Slap the lavender flower in your hand and add to the top of the cocktail as garnish. Serve.
  • Perfect Zucchini Recipe: Charred Zucchini With Summer Pesto

    Always better with a tasty beverage...

    Always better with a tasty beverage…

    Ah, the joys of zucchini. It grows so easily that it makes any gardener feel good. But then it keeps coming, and coming….and coming….and then you get so much you can’t even give it away (neither can your neighbors). And god forbid you try to cook it all- your kids will never forgive you if you serve it every night (trust us, we have tried and they haven’t forgotten).

    zuczuc1Happily we do have a few recipes that make the bountiful, but otherwise somewhat bland and watery zucchini worth eating throughout the summer. One of our faves is Redcat Zucchini, but that recipe is best done in small batches. What if you are grilling for a group? Well, this charred zucchini recipe is the perfect answer. This recipe is easy, tasty, time-efficient and it features ingredients that should be in your garden or farmers market right now.

    zuc2zuc4zuc5The steps are easy. Get some basil and mint from your garden and then make a pesto with some nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios work), oil, garlic and a little briny kick from some capers. Do some chopping, add some parm and/or pecorino and you are ready to go (oh, and you can do this ahead in big batches- this pesto works with anything).

    zuc6zuc7As for the zucchini, the char on the grill is the way to go (you could use a broiler in a pinch). If you are grilling you can char the zucchini briefly right when the coals go on the grill and are at their hottest (usually too hot for cooking proteins). It only takes a minute or two on each side. And you do want some char, those smoky notes balance with the fresh flavors of the pesto.

    zuc9 Continue reading