Sunny and Dry

By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson

2 oz Leopold’s Gin
5 Lemon Verbena leaves
0.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
0.5 Mint Simple Syrup (see here, use Cold Infusion method)
0.75 oz Seltzer
10 Spearmint Leaves, cut into chiffonade
5 to 10 Sunflower, Black-eyed Susan, or Marigold petals, cut into chiffonade
10 pieces Preserved Cucumber (see below)

Place the verbena eaves in the bottom of a mixing glass and thump a few times with a muddler to release the oils
Add gin, juice, syrup, and seltzer.  Stir well.
Add spearmint, petals, cucumbers, and enough ice to fill the glass
Shake gently a few times, then pour (without straining) into a collins glass
Poke at the greens with a knife or straw to distribute them

* * *

You quickly sense a sort of quiet reverence in every drink that bartender Scott Beattie creates.  Reverence for craft – measurements are precise, syrups are homemade, and citrus is freshly-squeezed.  Reverence for natural ingredients – fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers are seasonal, local, and organic.  Reverence for the spirits themselves – each liquor used is chosen for its distinct profile. Beattie’s culinary approach to cocktails elevates each drink, creating a product that is a sensual and sensorial tour de force.  But perhaps what appeals most is Beattie’s subtle, perhaps even unknowing nod to the past when Arab physicians distilled violets and roses for medical tinctures, and monasteries produced herbal liqueurs from their vast pharmacopeia. In many ways, I see Scott Beattie as a modern alchemist, using the base materials of nature to transform cocktails into artisanal wonders.

At first, Beattie’s sometimes complex style may not seem to fit into the 12 Bottle Bar universe.  After all, our basic philosophy sprang from the frustration we felt about too many ingredients in and too much fussing over the preparation of a cocktail.  But, on a closer look if you flip through Beattie’s book, you will notice that he rarely features more than two liquors in his cocktails (unless they are classics that call for specific spirits).  For Beattie, the character of his drinks is found in the additional, homemade ingredients like herbal, spiced or fruit-based syrups or juices, as well as the surprising use of pickling liquid for everything from hearts of palm to ginger root.  Further, while Beattie’s concoctions do take some extra care, his obsession with preparation and ingredients make him a man of, well, character.

There are a few things to consider when making these drinks.  Not only do ingredients need to be fresh, they need to be pure, for lack of a better word.  For instance, as he notes with lemons, the supermarket variety are covered in wax, which isn’t harmful, but which does affect juicing.  Make sure that you scrub them with a plastic brush before hand, or better yet, obtain them from a farmer’s market.   Similarly, herbs are best when freshly picked from your garden, but since not all of us have that, source herbs whose provenance is clear – organic, local,  etc.  This tenet applies most particularly to edible flowers.  While many blooms – from nasturtiums to geraniums to rose petals – can be eaten, they should never be purchased from a florist or any vendor that might use pesticides.  The flowers you use should be from your own backyard or that of a willing neighbor, who doesn’t spray with anything nasty.  In fact, we turned to marigolds as a substitute for sunflowers in the Sunny and Dry because we didn’t grow any of the latter.

If all this seems like a lot of extra work, well, admittedly, it isn’t as easy as whipping up a Gin & Tonic.  Beattie makes no apologies for his process because, for him, the process is part of the appreciation.  There’s a sort of old-fashioned, farmhouse aesthetic in these drinks that makes the reward of sipping one all the more pleasurable.  In his Sunny and Dry, Beattie calls for muddling lemon verbena leaves, which releases their beautiful oil and aroma.  He preserves cucumber (we used the small Persian variety) in Mint Simple Syrup, and asks that the mint leaves and delicate flower petals be cut into chiffonade (rolled like a cigarette and finely sliced), producing slivers of green and gold that dance about the glass.  Enjoy the preparation, consider it part of the recipe and consider yourself an alchemist of old.  In other words – take time to smell the flowers.

While Beattie’s book Artisan Cocktails is chock full of alluring drinks, the languid days of summer will soon upon us, so the Sunny and Dry seemed just the ticket.  The mint simple syrup creates a Julep-like base, the preserved cucumber slices echo the flavors of a Pimm’s Cup – the quintessential English summer sipper – while the lemon verbena and lemon juice add just the necessary tartness, melding seamlessly with the Gin (we think the citrus notes of Leopold’s play very nicely here, standing in for Beattie’s herbaceous Sarticious Gin).  Do we love this drink?  Yes, oh yes.  In a tall glass, the greens and yellows reflecting in the light, this is a drink  that cries out for a chaise lounge and a veranda, a view of the sea or a copse of willow trees, and a gentle breeze to cool the heat of the day.  Drink in hand, you might just think you’ve found paradise.

Preserved Cucumber
Cut a washed cucumber into 1/4 inch slices.  If you’re using a big variety, scoop out the seeds
Cover with Mint Simple Syrup and leaves stand for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 days (you want the cucumbers to still be crisp)
Beattie adds 3 drops of essential oil of spearmint to 2 2/3 cups of syrup.  We didn’t have this, so we skipped it but were still quite pleased with the results.

Note:  Eat the cucumbers slices in the drink, for goodness’ sake!

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6 Responses to “Sunny and Dry”

  1. Sue
    May 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    “Note: Eat the cucumbers slices in the drink, for goo”
    And the purpose of goo is . . . ?
    (hire me; I’m a great proofreader!)
    Good post–I felt refreshed just reading it!

    • May 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

      Thanks for the catch, Sue — just a hurried cut and paste job.

  2. May 28, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    This sounds like such a great refreshment! =)

  3. May 29, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Is it wrong to want one when it is only 10.am on a sunday …. ????

    • May 29, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      No. That is, in fact, the appropriate time to start drinking them. :)

  4. Kathleen Flinn
    July 17, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    Great post. I love your site. I made these yesterday (sans edible flowers), and the result was ultra light and refreshing, but with an interesting kick of flavor. You’re right, quite subtle. I bought my first muddler to make this. :)

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