I find out in this new cocktail recipe inspired by local Absinthe
This cocktail is inspired by one of my favorite teas and a bottle of locally made (Marin County) absinthe I was gifted on a recent writing assignment for Edible Marin & Wine Country Magazine. (The Crespo Organic Kitchen creates its magic from my Ger-Nis Culinary kitchen in Bolinas, California.)
The tea I discovered years back on the Island of Mauritius at an Ayurvedic yoga and meditation retreat. This fresh tea was the resorts signature drink, served hot or cold over shaved ice, drizzled with honey. The tea is simple yet exquisite in flavor and more soothing (served hot) and refreshing (served cold) than any tea I have ever had. It’s brewed using fresh ginger and lemons, so its also exceptionally simple.
I had long wanted to make a cocktail based on this simple recipe and when gifted with a bottle of Young & Yonder’s Flowers and Foragers Absinthe while writing an article on their vodka for an article for Edible Marin & Wine Country, I started to play with the idea of adding this herbaceously complex spirit to my Mauritius beverage. I’m in love with the new mango lavender and honey syrup that I discovered last season and figured that would be a nice touch, especially since this time of year my garden is bursting with lavender and not much else. When playing with this idea I kept thinking that the drink needed more fuerte to it and the idea of adding mezcal came, which would give it some power and also some smokyiness that for me blends beautifully with florals and botanicals and imparts a soft yet strong aura without adding sugar, which I find to be a lazy approach to cocktail making.
Absinthe is herbaceous, light and delicate as well as potent and ultra-complex. It’s bottled at a very high proof (120 on average vs 80-90 of most spirits), making it one of the most potent spirits available and why its often used sparingly and/or diluted in cocktails.
It has a historical reputation for causing hallucinations and illicit behavior.
Oscar Wilde famously said of absinthe “After the first glass you see things as you wish they were. After the second you wish you seem them as the are not. Finally, you see things as they really area and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”
Wormwood contains a chemical called thujone, this is the ingredient that gives absinthe its mind illuminating reputation starting in the early 1900’s. No worries today, none of the potency of the thujone can survive the modern-day distillation process.
There is enough of the chemical to give just a slight perplexing shift in perception, as well as clarity of thought. But I like it for its herbaceous and complex flavor and decided to play with it on a recent recipe testing day, where I was messing around with winter citrus and Mango Lavender Honey Nectar. I had also been drinking a lot of my ginger tea that week so I kind of just slid right into this recipe.
The sweet Mango Lavender Honey Syrup, (made with mango pits) pairs perfectly with the non-sweet potency of the absinthe and because I’m ALWAYS trying to celebrate and include Mexico, I got the bright idea to add a smoky and powerful mezcal. Playing off the co-mingling of strong and delicate, as is the essence of each of these spirts.
The drink is powerful and yet simultaneously delicate. Smoke, floral and botanicals commingle and play with great feminine strength in this drink.
I happen to love (and have on hand) the organic Vida Mezcal which has hints of honey tones and lots of smokiness,. It also has slight citrus and floral essences that marry well with this recipe. Serving this over shaved ice is key, the honey drizzle on the top freezes to the ice and creates a beautiful vision and the honey slowly merges with the cocktail as the ice melts down.
The recipe uses a kitchen torch to char the lemon wheel garnish but that’s an optional step. Chill a medium sized rocks glass(es) (6-8 ounce size) in the freezer ahead of making the drink.
For the Ginger Lemon Tea
3 lemons, sliced
3-4 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin ( peel on is fine)
2 cups water
For the Mango Lavender Honey Nectar
2-3 mango pits, with some flesh left on
1 big handful fresh lavender flowers
1 cup water
½ cup honey
For the drink
1 ½ ounces of mezcal
½ ounce of absinthe
1 ounce of ginger lemon tea
½ ounce of fresh blood orange juice (or regular)
½ ounce mango honey lavender nectar
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon absinthe
Charred lemon wheel garnish
Lavender flower garnish
For the ginger tea. Combine the lemon wheels, ginger and water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Take off heat, cool, strain (discarding solids), bottle and refrigerate.
For the mango lavender honey nectar. Bring to boil, then reduce and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain while hot and then whisk in the honey until it melts into the hot liquid. Bottle up and refrigerate.
For the cocktail. In a cocktail stirring apparatus half filled with ice (glass is ideal as it chills quicker than metal) combine the mezcal, absinthe, tea, orange juice and honey nectar and stir using a cocktail spoon for about 45 seconds. A cocktail spoon is used by twirling the handle of the spoon between your thumb and index finger, this method leads to a gentle stir that not only blends the cocktail but lightly dilutes the ice and merges the water into the drink, softly.
Strain the cocktail into the chilled glass filled with shaved or crushed ice. Top with a spoonful of honey followed by a spoonful of absinthe. Garnish with a Lemon wheel and lavender flower.
To make the charred lemon wheel garnish. Sprinkle the lemon wheels with a little sugar and using a kitchen torch, gently char the lemons, placing particular attention to the peels so that they get charred. This creates a slight bitterness that will complement the drink especially on the initial nose and sip.