In this week’s guest post we have an excellent guide to plants that make the world’s best drinks followed by a couple of recipe’s to boot. Food Writer, Laura Brehaut of Postmedia News, originally published this libation piece on Canada.com (May 31, 2013); however, she has graciously allowed reprint here with her creative commons copyright designation. I hope you enjoy the article and the recipes.
The role that grapes or barley play in creating spirits may be a given, but what about plants such as corn, rice, sorghum or sugarcane? We may be onto a new drinking game here – one author Amy Stewart would likely approve of. In The Drunken Botanist (Algonquin Books, March 2013), she takes a fun and lighthearted look at the botanical world and the integral part it plays in what we imbibe.
“Suddenly we weren’t in a liquor store anymore. We were in a fantastical greenhouse, the world’s most exotic botanical garden, the sort of strange and overgrown conservatory we only encounter in our dreams.”
“There are certain ways that you can pair compatible ingredients if you just know what those ingredients are, but for me, the benefit is really just being able to sit around a bar with your friends and go, ‘You know, Christopher Columbus brought this plant to the New World. It didn’t even exist…’” she says. “That kind of stuff just fascinates me. So for me, it’s having a richer understanding of what you’re putting in the glass.”
“The recipes are really nothing fancy. The subtitle is, ‘The plants that create the world’s great drinks’ and by the world’s great drinks, I really mean the drinks that we all know and anybody can make or could learn how to make,” Stewart says. “I was really asking myself, ‘What is the best expression of this particular plant in the glass?’ so if I’m writing about corn – corn is used to make bourbon – I think an Old Fashioned is the best way to appreciate bourbon if you’re going to have a mixed drink.”
“It’s a very nice hangout space and of course I use some of those things for cooking as well,” she says. “It’s nice to have something like sage or rosemary or cilantro right outside the kitchen door but actually a lot of them just get used for drinks.”
“Life is short and there’s no reason to drink bad drinks, so I think once you know what goes into a drink maybe you’re more likely to seek out fresh ingredients and stay away from artificial flavourings and colourings,” Stewart says. “There are only so many drinks that you can have, right? So why not make them count? Make them good.”
3/4 oz Meyer lemon juice
dry sparkling wine (Spanish cava works well) or sparkling water
1. Shake the vodka, simple syrup, and lemon juice over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
2. Float sparkling wine on top and garnish with lemon peel.
3. For a less intoxicating variation, strain into a tumbler over ice and top with sparkling water instead of sparkling wine.
1 jalapeño (or, if you prefer, a milder pepper), seeded, cored, and sliced
2 to 3 sprigs fresh cilantro or basil
1 cucumber (1 chunk and 1 swizzle-stick-shape slice needed)
high-quality tonic (look for a brand without high-fructose corn syrup, like Fever-Tree or Q Tonic)
3 red or orange cherry tomatoes
2. Fill a highball glass with ice; layer in 1 or 2 slices of jalapeño, a sprig of cilantro, and the slice of cucumber.
3. Strain the gin and pour over ice. Fill the glass with tonic water; garnish with cherry tomatoes on a pick.
‘The Drunken Botanist’: The plants we love to drink by Laura Brehaut (CC BY-NC 4.0)
ALSO PUBLISHED IN PRINT: Calgary Herald: June 22, 2013; page I3