Happy 4th of July everyone! It’s another beautiful summer day here in Seattle; 61 degrees, overcast, with showers predicted for this afternoon. Everyone get out your July 4th fleeces. We don’t know where people get the idea that the weather here in Seattle isn’t nice. Despite the cool weather and rain, the lavender is in full bloom, which makes the bees happy. Since we also enjoy the sight, scent, and taste of lavender, we were curious as to what we could do with it drink-wise.
Scrappy’s has been making a very nice lavender bitters for some time, which we use occasionally and really enjoy for its clean, strong taste. This week though, we were curious about using fresh lavender to really get the brightest flavor. It seems like it would pair nicely with light, cool, summery drinks for those of you who actually get a summer (FWIW summer usually doesn’t start until July 5th or later around here, and then it’s gorgeous). With that in mind, we started playing around with lavender and various ingredients. The obvious candidates are gin, lemon, and honey. Lavender and honey really is incredibly delicious, so first off we made a lavender-infused honey syrup. With that in hand, we started trying it with various base spirits. Pisco seemed like it might pair well, but no. The flavors clashed and came out tasting weirdly astringent. Next up we tried pear eau de vie. That was *very* tasty. However, we wanted to make sure there wasn’t something tastier waiting the wings. Cachaca seemed like it might work, but once again we were wrong. The grassy notes just seemed funky in combination with the lavender, and not in a pleasant way. Finally we tried some moscato grappa. Equally tasty as the pear eau de vie, but quite different. Ultimately we decided to go with the pear and leave the grappa for another date. With a little bit of lime to leaven the sweetness, some soda to add dilution and fizz, and ice to cool it all down, we had a working drink.
2 oz pear eau de vie
1 oz honey lavender syrup*
1/2 oz lime juice
2 oz club soda
Pour first 3 ingredients into a Collins glass. Add ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of lavender flowers.
Nose: Pear, honey, and lavender, tiny hint of lime. Nothing too surprising there.
Palate: Pear spice and lavender right on the front, followed by cooked pear and honey on the mid-palate with a hint of lime acidity underpinning it. Finish is ever so slightly bitter with pollen-y honey, resinous lavender and hint of lime peel. Aftertaste is spicy pear.
Luscious and pollen-y. Well integrated, with sweet herbal and pear flavors. The hint of spicy wine notes of slightly overripe pears mixes well with the resinous aromatic quality of the lavender. Honey supplies a sweet, rich underpinning to it all.
*Honey Lavender Syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
4 tbsp lavender flowers and leaves
Combine all ingredients in a small pot. Gently heat to a simmer. Remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes. Strain. Let sit longer if you want it stronger, we were going for a more subtle flavor.
As an aside, it is worth using nice honey in this drink, if you have any around. All honey is tasty, of course but the subtle flavors of the good stuff really shine here. We used one of the many yummy offerings from Seattle Urban Honey.
The Picardo Cooler turned out super tasty and perfect for hot weather. Light and easily drinkable without being overly sweet, with the honey and lavender bringing some interesting richness and complexity. Yum!
For the next drink, we wanted to try some aged spirits, but we found these harder to pair. Mixed with the lavender, the bourdon came off rough and woody. Cognac was smoother but overwhelming. Calvados showed some promise but we just couldn’t get things to balance out without losing the lavender flavor. In the end we decided to just go with vodka as the easiest way to let the lavender shine, but decided to see if we could try and do something more on the drier, almost martini-like end of the spectrum. We thought we’d use the lavender itself to add some of the bitter/herbal notes typically supplied by vermouth. We still wanted some vermouth character though, so we went with a sweeter less bitter vermouth. Very nice! It still wanted for a bit of sweetness to call out the lavender, and a hint of citrus couldn’t go amiss, so we went with a splash of Cointreau to round things out. Tasty and quite dry, so we thought a sugared rim with yet more lavender flavor would make an interesting juxtaposition to the drink.
2 oz vodka
1 oz sweet white vermouth (We used the La Quintinye blanc which has some nice herbal notes)
1/4 oz Cointreau
1 packed teaspoon of lavender leaves and flowers
Muddle lavender in the bottom of the mixing glass. Add vodka and stir for 15-20 seconds. Add other ingredients and ice. Stir until cold. Double strain into a glass with a lavender sugar** rim (a Booze Nerds first!).
Nose: Lavender, orange, vanilla, hints of nutmeg and rosemary. Slight custardy smell like a creme brûlée.
Palate: Starts with the sweet floral aspects of the lavender along with creamy orange and vanilla. Mid-palate is quite dry, with nutmeg, dry resinous notes of lavender and rosemary, and a hint of hazelnut. Finish is quite subtle and dry, the ghost of floral notes from the lavender touched with mineral-y oxidized wine notes from the vermouth.
Surprisingly dry, given the sugared rim, which added a counter balance to the dry cocktail without making it too sweet.
**To make lavender sugar, combine 1 tsp lavender flowers with 3 tbls sugar and mince until very fine.
There you have it, some interesting and refreshing lavender cocktails to add to your summer repertoire. The lavender really adds fresh floral and resin notes which makes for great summer sipping. Have a wonderful 4th, and remember to keep all your fingers attached!