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Lavender Collins

2 oz Leopold’s Gin
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1.5 oz Lavender Syrup (recipe below)
3 oz Club Soda (+/- to taste)

Stir gin, lemon juice, and syrup together in a Collins glass.
Add 2-3 ice cubes and top with Club Soda.
Garnish with a lavender stalk and some petals, if you wish.

 

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When I wrote our Garden Fresh Syrups post the other day, I joked about inundating you with “Marigold Collinses”.  Today, you get the Lavender Collins – so, apparently, I was only half joking.  Truth be told, there are actually a few good reasons why we’re focusing on flower-based drinks this week.  The Mixology Monday theme got us started, and next week, we’ll meet a man who’s the grand champion at this particular sport, Scott Beattie.  As a bridge, the Lavender Collins is a drink that shows how a subtle change – throwing some flowers into your simple syrup – can really alter a drink.

For some reason, lavender seems to be everywhere I look these days, despite the real season being a month away.  Saveur recently published a Lemon Lavender Fizz (the same drink as here but in a smaller format), Bombay Sapphire promotes the Lavender Sapphire Collins (the same drink as here but with Bombay, specifically, and a different garnish), Lesley planted a big pot of the stuff in the garden only last week, and I just happened to have rewatched Tom Tykwer’s “Perfume,” which aside from being one of my favorite films also features some of the most glorious footage of the lavender fields of Grasse, Provence that I’ve ever seen.  If there’s one thing that cannot be argued about lavender, it is that it is breathtaking to the eye.

Amazing, isn’t it.  As long as man and lavender have occupied the same space, the former has been bewitched by the latter.  Whether used for its medicinal, soothing, or culinary properties, lavender has proved to be something of a panacea-of-all-trades, if you’ll excuse the inherent redundancy.  Medically, it has been used to aide sleep, decrease stress, relieve sinus pressure, cure hangovers, and headaches, and lessen the effects of depression.  First written use of lavender’s healing properties appears to have been chronicled by Greek military physician Dioscorides in AD 77 in his De Materia Medica.  Not only was lavender excellent for sore throats and indigestion, according to the good doctor, but also a fine dressing for wounds on the battle field.  The Romans took this sage advice even further.  They used the oils to scent everything from their hair to their walls; ladies were even known to hang lavender at their bedside to aide in their rituals of seduction.  The Roman verb ‘lavare’, to wash, is thought to be a possible root of the word lavender.

The Middle Ages saw lavender move from the monasteries (where herbal knowledge was preserved, literally and figuratively) to the home garden.  Along with beheading his wives, Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and, with them, the source of lavender production.  Proper ladies started to grow lavender outside the laundry room so that damp clothes could be draped over the sturdy plants to capture their scent as the fabrics dried.

For the Victorians, lavender symbolized devotion.  Queen Victoria was so taken by the flower’s scent that she appointed Miss Sarah Sprules as “Purvey of Lavender Essences to the Queen.”  While the London suburb of Mitcham was the focus of lavender oil production in the Victorian era, the Provencal town of Grasse now claims that title.

In “Perfume,” based upon Patrick Süskind’s novel, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (anti-hero, if ever there was one) possesses the greatest “nose” the world has ever known.  Though a lowly street urchin, he can identify every scent he has ever encountered – the most intoxicating of which is that of young, post-pubescent girls, which propels Grenouille on a quest to capture and bottle this olfactory aphrodisiac.  It’s a journey which leads Grenouille many places as he travels to Grasse to learn the mysteries of enfleurage, the capturing of floral scents in odorless fat.  If you’re intrigued at all, I should tell you that Grenouille’s tale involves serial killings and the largest orgy you’ve probably ever encountered (if it’s not – right on, baby!).

How you plan to use your lavender should dictate which variety you employ, so here’s a brief primer:

Spanish Lavender (L. stoechas)
Our Lavender Collins features Spanish lavender, which was the primary variety used during the Middle Ages to distill lavender oil.  Although less hardy in cold climates, L. stoechas imparts a fragrance tinged with rosemary, produced by the compound fenchone (a mix of fresh pine, camphor, and sweet lime). In our opinion, this piney quality balances out the often soapy characteristics of more floral-smelling lavender and marries perfectly with the juniper tones present in Dry Gin.

English lavender (L. angustifolia)
This is the lavender most people picture in image and scent when they think of the flower.  Called “true lavender”, it is used in everything from perfume to herbal remedies to potpourri.  Because it contains less camphor scent, it offers up a sweeter smell and flavor, ideal for cooking.  It is especially at home in items like ice cream and jam.  (Spanish lavender’s foliage works well with hearty fare like game meats, but is best avoided in desserts and more subtle dishes.)

French lavender (L. dentate)
Contrary to what you might think, French lavender is not the stuff that covers the fields of Grasse in Provence.  It’s not even a very fragrant variety and is usually used more for decorative reasons than anything culinary or medicinal.  In fact, when we think of “French” lavender, we are most likely thinking of the Spanish, aka Mediterranean, blooms.  In Provence,  the lavender is a hybrid of English lavender and another cultivar.

Of course, lavender is no stranger to gin.  It’s one of the botanicals used in Aviation Gin, and it marries beautifully with Leopold’s “new world” profile as well.  You’ll notice that the syrup’s content is pretty high here, and we’ve done that in order to balance the taste of the lemon juice, making it more of a complimentary note than a dominant one.  As always, feel free to adjust as you like.

Lavender Syrup
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Filtered Water
1.5 Tbsp Lavender Buds

Use the hot infusion method.

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