While I wouldn’t say our front yard in the north Seattle area is the prettiest – I tend to shade towards the scraggly when it comes to the grass, for one, cause over-watering is a problem, ya’ know – it is blessed with an abundance (or over-abundance as neighbors might say) of lovely, bee-utiful, lavender. When it flowers in summer, the air smells delish, the flowers hide the dead grass, and the bees are buzzing happily. But what, if anything, to do with it? I mean, pretty for pretty-ness’ sake is swell! All for it. Art for art’s sake, too. And making bees buzz jollily is a state of being we should aim for, cause bees rule. But, but, it’s also quite fun to utilize a little of that lavender in making lavender simple syrup (recipe below), which can then be mixed with gin and Prosecco into this very cocktail, the Lavanda (which sounds like a sultry dance, but isn’t. Not saying you can’t have a few of these and dance btw. Cause that, that you should do). The combo is classy in a summertime way, fragrant in a floral way, and makes an ideal accompaniment to a summer’s late afternoon or evening. Thinking more, what a crowning glory of a drink this would be at a summer wedding. You should get married! You can serve this – I have lots of lavender to spare.
1. Add the flowers from the top of one lavender sprig, gin, and lavender simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Shake like dancer.
2. Strain into a flute. Top with chilled Prosecco, and garnish with the second lavender sprig.
First Note: To make lavender simple syrup, add 1/4 cup chopped fresh lavender, 2 cups sugar, and 1 1/2 cups water to a medium-sized saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches a low boil, stirring regularly. Once it reaches that low boil, reduce the heat to medium- low and keep the syrup at a simmer, still stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
Second Note: For gin here, you could go traditional London style (like, Broker’s gin, which wouldn’t be a bad choice), as the juniper plays with lavender well. But you could also go something less traditional,
Does it feel like brunch season to you? It does to me! Spring when springing always sings out “brunching time is on” in my old ears for some reason. More sunshine, perhaps, or the blooming of things equates in my brain having pals over for meals that aren’t really breakfast, but aren’t yet lunch either. Bascially: brunch! Great idea, brunch, by the way. Not that I don’t like brunches throughout the year, between us, but brunching in spring is best. Perhaps because you can, after a long winter (for many), have said brunch outdoors again if you want? Perhaps because by spring the days are longer so you can work up more of a brunch appetite (lots of weeding to be done in the morning, too)? Who knows! But in honor of, let’s call it, brunch season – which of course demands more brunch drinks – here’s a new effervescent cocktail for you, the Good Morning Sunshine. I like my brunch drinks bubbly in the main, and a bit fruity, while still having a smooth kick to help ease you into afternoon napping! That little rubric leads to the ingredient list here: two kinds of juice (oj, pj), the citrus-ish lightly sweet beloved of the nation (currently) Aperol, Aperol’s tight pal Prosecco (bringing the bubbles), and then a bit of a brunch surpriser: tequila, which adds the underlying strength while also bringing a hint of smoke and vegetalness. Quite lovely I have to admit. Brunch lovely, even!
Sometimes I think to myself, what a wonderful world of drink-making ingredients we’re living within. The change since I came of drinking age (which admittedly was many a moon ago) is remarkable – heck, the change in the last decade, or even five years, is pretty remarkable. How lucky us cocktail lovers are! And there are more delicious delectables in beautiful bottles coming our way all the time. Even luckier! For example, just the other day, a beautiful bottle arrived in the post (luckiest me – don’t be jealous), containing Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus:
A “novel expression” (sidenote: I love the usage of the word “expression” here, and in other spots, to refer to a slightly, not completely, new version of a spirit or liqueur) of the original Drumshanbo Gin, this adds notes of, well, Sardinian citrus, “Sa Pompia” to be exact, one of the rarest fruits in the world, and a fruit sitting between an orange and grapefruit in flavor essence, though part of the lemon family. Not something you’d eat solo, but with a peel that can bring fantastic citrus dreams when used correctly. But, before peeling that any more, let’s back up. If you don’t know, Drumshanbo Gin itself takes its full name from the fact that it’s made in a small village in Ireland, and with a signature ingredient: Gunpowder Tea (which is a green tea rolled into gun-pellet-esque balls). But that’s just the beginning of this gin story! That tea and the Sardinian citrus, grapefruit, and lime are vapor infused into the gin, while a host of botanicals (juniper, as you’d expect, plus angelica and orris root, caraway and coriander seed, cardamom, star anise, and lesser-know flowery herb meadowsweet) are distilled in a medieval copper still. Whew! But what’s it all mean? On the nose, a strong, distinctive citrus medley, orange with underlying grapefruit, with subtle hints of juniper and flowers and springtime. The taste reflects the nose, but flipped a bit, with bountiful botanicals bursting on the tongue, with that green tea flavor coming through, swirled with citrus and then ending herbally. Yummy!
It’s a curious collection of ingredients, all balanced out nice, and one I couldn’t resist trying in a drink, after sipping it solo. And I had the perfect moment, with some pals coming over for lunch. As we’re at the point in the calendar where the holidays are in view, my mind went instantly to a bubbly cocktail (as the past weeks have shown, I am a fan of the holiday/sparkling combo). I played around a little with things, and ended up leaning into the citrus side of the gin, complementing it with a little more orange and a smidge of sweet in the form of Grand Marnier, and then doubling and tripling the herb-and-citrus song by the addition of two fantastic citrusy bitters: Scrappy’s lovely Grapefruit bitters and Orange bitters. I’m not gonna lie: I think with just those ingredients, there’s a pretty swell cocktail. But adding prosecco really drives all the flavors up, up, up with every bubble, into a memorable sparkling mix that’s ideal for the holidays — and for lunch with pals. When drinking, maybe throw out a toast to our modern drinker’s world, too, and how wonderful it is.
We’re rolling, rolling, rolling into the happening winter holiday season, which means top hats and tails are being pressed (well, in my 1920s fever-dream at least) and people like you and me are stocking up on bubbly. While our parties may take different forms than past years, let’s hope parties with bubbly drinks are still being planned, cause if they aren’t, well, the world wouldn’t be quite as sparkly and shiny. What also helps make things more sparkly and shiny is of course having a new bubbly drink to have and make and serve at these parties, which leads us to The Poor Harriet. This effervescent number combines old pal gin (who has made many a holiday party mighty), fresh orange juice (a healthy cold-weather hit since oranges blossomed), Parfait Amour (if you don’t know, a floral liqueur – think a rose-y, violet-y bouquet, that is love-based, so perfect to serve to loved ones, if a tad sweet on its own), Peychaud’s bitters (whose heartening mixture of herbs balances the sweetness), a little more sweetness (in the form of simple syrup – feel free to omit if this seems too much sweet, even during the holidays), and then, of course bubbles. Here, the bubble component is Italian sparkling wine Prosecco, which is a delight! Now, party pals, you are prepared for those upcoming holiday revels. Thank me later.
At this point in the summer, it’s best to be sure you’re surrounded by pals and easy-to-build drinks that are scaled for more than just you. Summertime, late summertime especially, isn’t the time for quiet solo contemplation after all. It’s time for simple and swell parties with the below mix (also good to have fruit juice, to ensure you don’t get sick during these late summer weeks, and brandy because, well, brandy needs you and you need brandy – but that’s as much contemplation as we want). Oh, this’ll serve around eight, depending on how hot it is. If it’s really hot, might want to keep it to, oh, six, seven max. And get extra ice.
2 peaches, pitted and sliced
2 apricots, pitted and sliced
4 ounces Simple Syrup
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
One 750-milliliter bottle chilled Prosecco
Orange slices for garnish
1. Combine the peaches, apricots, and simple syrup in a sturdy pitcher, the kind you use when outdoors in the summer. Using a muddler or long wooden spoon, muddle the fruit and syrup well.
2. Fill the pitcher halfway full with ice cubes, and then add the brandy and orange juice into the pitcher’s melody. Stir well.
3. Carefully add the Prosecco and orange slices. Stir again, well. Serve in wine glasses, getting a slice of orange in each glass.
A Note: There will be some leftover fruit here – you should eat it! Or, if that kind of thing makes you icky (well, it shouldn’t in summer, but who am I to judge), you could actually strain out the bigger bits, early in the process. But I wouldn’t.
There are times, when the Mercury’s rising and that big ol’ ball of heat in the sky is high overhead, when you want a classy drink, but one that isn’t too tough. A drink that has all kinds of flavor, but without involving any sweat (or little sweat) to make. A drink you could sip after a long day of work while the sun starts its long slow trip down westward, as well as during a family brunch on Sunday when you’re waking up slowly.
Well, this is that drink friend! It covers all those bases, though admittedly it might be best during the Italian aperitif hours, those beautiful moments before dinner (let’s say 5 to 7, though they can arrive a stitch earlier or later) when you want to have something a little effervescent and light, but still with character and taste. All those characteristics come together here with just two ingredients – and a lemon twist – starting with Mionetto Prosecco, specifically the DOC Treviso brut version (though all the Mionetto Proseccos, made since 1887, are worth tracking down). The Treviso brut is nice and dry and crisp, with apple and peach and flowers lingering on the tongue, along with a hint of honey.
Here, it’s mixed with another Italian number, the newest sibling of renowned Galliano (the L’Autentico golden liqueur in the memorable bottle), Galliano L’Aperitivo, just recently becoming available stateside. An amaro, or bitter, it boasts over 50 ingredients, including a bouquet of citrus – orange, bergamot, tangerine, grapefruit, others – and a mix of herbs and spices like cardamom. The flavor’s rich, with all those orange-y citrus notes, herbaliciousness, and a hint of bitter.
Together, these two Italian stalwarts come together beautifully – with lots of fruit flavor, but with a dryness that is swell in summer, when you want to keep the cloying nature of some drinks far away. The color is also rather amazing, adding another welcome touch.
I say, go into January with bubbles; go out of January and into February with bubbles. And love, of course. And Parfait Amour (which, you know, gets a bad rap – some of it deserved, as it can be a sickly sweet kind of love at times). But damnit, it’s a worthy love here. Ya’ hear? And this drink (which itself can run sweet for some – but on occasion sweet isn’t bad. The orange juice, if fresh as the driven snow or some such, should help balance. You could also drop the simple altogether, now that I think about it. Again, though, you may want to sweet up. That’s okay, too.), as well as being a good end-of-the-year’s-first-month choice, is also not a bad idea for you and yours to snuggle with on the up-coming Valentine’s Day. It checks the boxes for that: ingredient with “love” in title, sparkling and classy, Peychaud’s for health, and gin to base it all on. See what I mean?
At some point this month, I myself will be in Italy, and I can’t be happier about it (having lived there once, it’s easy to see that I am a big fan), and in a way this drink is a bubbly celebration of that happiness. Though, it’s also perhaps a more serious number (not in a bad way, at all) than some bubbly Italian drinks. Howso? It starts with grappa, which I love, and which is of course a cousin to wine, and as you probably guessed by the “bubbly,” this also has Italian sparkler Prosecco. Let’s hold on that for a second, to talk about the third ingredient, Cynar. A member of the digestif amari family, Cynar is crafted from artichokes along with 12 other herbs and plants. It’s a wee stitch bitter, but has a great smooth herbal-ness and a small comforting sweetness, too. It’s swell solo, but also in drinks, and plays well with the strong grappa here. But back to the Prosecco – to hold up to those other two strong personalities, you need a bubbly with its own strong sense of purpose and flavor, and here I went with Zonin Black edition (a bottle came in the mail recently – yes, I was born under a good sign). It’s a slightly spicier Prosecco, with cardamom hints alongside apple and a little floralness. Combined with our other two Italian imports, this makes for an effervescent drink that can be had both before and after dinner, and perhaps savored more than most.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More