Here in Louisiana – Strawberries are frakin’ everywhere. And they are so damn good in the South!
It is hard to pass up a pound of strawberries for $2.79 at the local Rouse’s. And I love making cocktails with Strawberries. The only main problem I have with strawberries is how to get all of that amazing flavor out of a succulent fruit. You can always puree and add a touch of sugar to the final product but I’ve always want to go beyond the act of pulverizing the fruit to get to its bountiful flavors.
Recently, I’ve started up processes of making my syrups and modifiers with either “no heat” or “steeping” methods. Plus, I’ve become enarmored with oleo saccharum process and the role of sugars in the chemical process of fruit and vegetable extraction in the past year. During Summer 2013, I was without access to a hotplate or kitchen burner so I started making things sans heat. A few years back, I read up about shrubs and their historical canon with cocktails and I built a good amount of “starter” recipes. In preparing for my long-overdue cocktail book, I’ve gone back to my original recipes and started to tweak them to fall more in line with “home bar” application methods. So don’t call me George Lucas of cocktails.
Recently, I read an article by Kevin Liu in Serious Eats about “no heat” syrups with emphasis on the oleo saccharum processes. I decided to apply the same principles to my original Strawberry & Ginger Shrub with fantastic results. AND – I was left with tasty tasty Sugar-Cured Strawberry Jerky for garnishes.
The Shrub Recipe:
3 cups sliced / quartered Strawberries (just about 1 pound)
3 cups white sugar
1/3 cup peeled ginger – sliced
1 lemon peel
Add all ingredients to non-reactive bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on counter top for 48 hours. Stir every 12 hours with spoon or spatula. At end of 48-hour period, whisk and press strawberries to the sides of bowl. Strain with mesh or chinios strainer. Toss the strawberries into a plastic container and store in refrigerator.
Add the following for the strained product:
1.5 cups water – cold and filtered
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar – I used an aged version I picked up from Hong Kong Market in the West Bank
Store in airtight container and date/label. Should be good to go for at least one month.
The Cocktail: Ambitious Outsider
Strawberries are the Jeff Winger of modifiers. Every type of spirits gets along with it and each one wants to be its dance partner. Bourbon tends to push it around and Tequila/Mezcal always want to be on top of it. Vodka is the standard drunk sorority girl that keeps trying to get it behind the bleachers. My choice for the cocktail is Gin. A charming and demure partner who can meet it on both fronts of its botanical vivaciousness and unique finish. In my selection of the proper Gin for the cocktail, I reached back in the recesses of my cocktail days in No. 7 and pulled out a bottle of one my favorite West Coast Gins – Voyager – made by Pacific Distillery. It’s a nice balance of the standard London Dry style with juniper, coriander, licorice root, cardamom, anise seed, lemon, orange, orris, angelica, and cassia with a subtle hint of sweetness that picks up the strawberry shrub in a Patrick Swayze sort of way.
The build is structured around the classic tippler – The Claridge. A few years back, I read any article about bartenders and their favorite “forgotten” tipplers. Erick Castro – formerly of Rickhouse in SF and now the DUDE behind San Diego’s Polite Provisions – spoke of his love for “The Claridge” – a Gin and Apricot Brandy cocktail. I took his advice and used it as a “Bartender’s Choice” for all of my Gin drinkers during my time in Brooklyn and NY with solid results. I modified “The Claridge” basic recipe with more emphasis on the shrub and less on sweetness. I used Giffard Triple Sec due to its sharp finish to compliment the acid of the Shrub and Cocchi Americano because I frakin’ love it in cocktails.
1.5 oz Voyager Gin
1 oz Strawberry + Ginger Shrub
.5 oz Cocchi Americano
.5 oz Giffard Triple Sec
Add all ingredients to cocktail tin. Add ice and shake it like a Ronnie James Dio singing the bridge of “Rainbow in the Dark”. Double strain into chilled coupe glass and garnish with an expressed lemon peel.