Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Girl Scouts & Hedonism

Listening to NPR today I caught this delightful tidbit, it appears the Girl Scouts updated their badges for the 21st Century. Among the new merit-worthy activities: 'The Science of Happiness." Above is the new badge design. I wonder what delightful cocktails will be made in that beaker? Something with mint, I suspect.

In any case I'd love to see what projects are undertaken to achieve this one. In the meantime, I'll continue working on my own.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Garden to Table - Adventures in Mixology

My Packing Crate Persona - Courtesy of Heidi from Finishing the Hat

We had another “craft day” at the house so I got to conduct a few more cocktail experiments. I was actually asked to come up with a cocktail for an upcoming ‘Garden to Table” edition of Supper Club 600 an invention of my friend Heidi who has been exploring her own enlightened hedonism in her blog Finishing the Hat.  She has been hosting a series of delicious dinners that clock in at 600 calories. Check out her blog for some great recipes and personal inspiration. The particular dinner was also co-sponsored by The Urb Garden Girls who have been growing fresh herbs and vegetables in the urban spaces of Long Beach.

The concept was a 600 calorie meal prepared from the harvest of our local gardens, I would be adding some optional extra calories with a cocktail or two. With that in mind, I wanted to do something fresh, using some of the ingredients of our own urban garden.

Recently I had a friend serve a Basil, Ginger Martini that she had crafted by making her own cucumber infused gin. I was quite impressed by the blend of flavors and knew I wanted to try my hand at working with that cucumber and gin combination. I figured the herbal qualities of gin would work great as a garden themed cocktail, especially mixed with fresh herbs from the garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make my own cucumber infused gin though, so I had to experiment with muddling.

Whenever possible start with fresh ingrediants

I picked up some Persian cucumbers at Trader Joes – small sweat & crunchy, to be my base. Five to Six quarter inch slices into the shaker with a few fresh herbs and a splash of simple syrup was the starting point for all my drink experiments. The cucumber slices gave off a satisfying crunch when I crushed them, and added an extraordinary color to the overall drink, seeing that, I knew I couldn’t really mess with anything but clear liquors.

I loved the color of the crushed cucumber

My first attempt was just a simple press of cucumbers and basil; it mixed subtly with the gin, but seemed to be missing some punch. My first instinct was to reach for the familiar citrus and I juiced half a lime into the cocktail, but the effect was overpowering to the cucumber, I tried to “sweeten” it down a bit with some Cointreau but now the cucumber was lost completely. The cucumber called for a sweeter drink, which is certainly a challenge for me, as I prefer my cocktails dry.

Prepping the next cocktail at the outdoor bar - courtesy of Christy & Ted

I moved back and forth between basil and mint. One of my initial tasters mistook the sweetened cucumber for melon, which planted the idea that perhaps some Midori would be a good addition. I even joined a crafting contingent on a quick trip to the local Costco but that turned up none. As such, my mint variation became a sort of cucumber gin Mint Julep. It was okay, and my tasters seemed to like it, but I struggled with this one a bit more.

The Basil Ginger seemed far more appealing to me, more spicy than sweet. I grated fresh ginger into the mix, cut back on the simple syrup – just enough to moisten the muddle – and added a half ounce of Canton Ginger to 2 and a half ounces of gin. Once I garnished it with some crystallized ginger, I knew this would be one of the cocktails I’d serve.

The Final Basil Ginger Variation as served at the Supper Club  600 dinner
For the mint variation, I kept thinking about adding some Midori, so during the week I picked up a bottle to do some last minute experimentation. The Midori while sweet, still had its own kick without taking anything away from the cucumber. I successfully tested it again with Amy, one of the Urb Garden Girls and that gave me the green light to go with this variation for the Garden to Table.

At the event itself I had a great time, to be sure I spent a fair amount of time at the bar, muddling the fresh ingredients for each cocktail but for me that was just another hedonistic indulgence. I love a good cocktail, but I love sharing a good cocktail even more. Perhaps this is my way of doing service for others. Exhausting, fun, satisfying – yeah this was a great event and I was happy to be invited to contribute.

The Full Supper Club 600 meal, along with the final version of  myCucumber Mint Midori Gin Julep
I do invite you to check out the blogs of my collaborators and see what they are doing to live happier, more fulfilling lives – and maybe explore how you might do the same.

Till next time, Cheers!