First of all, Amy Stewart has never even been indicted, let alone tried or convicted. But, as a plant specialist she had lived on the edge. In Wicked Plants, she covered poisons. In Wicked Bugs, she listed things to avoid [or use if there is someone …]. Well, that’s how we get in trouble, isn’t it.
Amy has a new book, The Drunken Botanist, and it’s another winner. How do plants help create our beverages? Amy knows.
There are things here you might know about. The Moscow Mule, a combo of vodka and ginger beer, was created in the US in 1941 and is the landmark beverage that got vodka rolling into the number one spirit in this country.
But how do you drink pine, as in tree, as in the Royal Tannenbaum combining gin with pine liqueur. Or Bison grass? It grows in Poland and is harvested, dried and then macerated in rye vodka, zubrowka. Add dry vermouth apple juice for a Bison Grass Cocktail.
There a whole section devoted to licorice and its variants and the liqueurs around the world that use it. And, given that it is springtime, the maidenhair ferns have arrived. What do you do with them? You make syrup. The recipe is below. The book is available everywhere and it worth a browse at the least and more likely a buy.
The syrup technique here is one I had never heard of before. You make a flavored syrup, that will be delicate, and freeze it to preserve the flavor. I’m going to try.
Yield: 3 cups
- Several stems of fresh maidenhair ferns
- 2 cups of water
- 1 ounce orange flower water
- 1 ½ cups sugar
Bring the water to a boil, and pour it on the fern. Let stand for 30 minutes. Strain and add the orange flower water and sugar. Reheat, if necessary, to dissolved the sugar. It will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator and longer in the freezer.
Source: The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
Book Review: Vodka Distilled by Tony Abou-Garmin + The Sgroppino [vokda + limoncello + prosecco + serbert!]
Vokda. The things I did not know, or suspect and was wrong.
In 2010, after 30 years of mixology experience, Tony Abou-Garmin wrote the hit book The Modern Mixologist [no, I haven’t reviewed it here, but I will].
Tony has worked everywhere perfecting his craft. At Po with Mario Batali in that shoe-box sized spot in the West Village. In the enormous and palatial Bellagio in Las Vegas. Tony is a well-traveled expert who ridden — actually he’s help create — the modern tidal wave of cocktail concepts.
Now, when you are an expert, that first book can be too long for the editors. Modern Mixologist fit in that category. So, out came material. And, now we see the fruits of those remnants. Vodka Distilled is all about vodka, just about vodka, teaching us, enticing us, assisting us.
This book has history, recipes and vodka reviews. The information, and I read it cover to cover, really changes your perspective on what vodka is. I know the definition from the US Government: “A neutral spirit, so distilled, or treated after distillation with charcoal and other materials as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”
Well, that’s just not true. Not actually for US vodkas and most certainly for vodkas from the rest of the world. And so not true for the lands of origin of vodka: Russia and Poland. Whether it was Russia or Poland where vodka first came into being is disputed. Lord, Poland is disputed. It’s vanished from the map three times and the borders of Poland now are not what they were 700 years ago. Today, Poland is home to 1000 different vodkas. Russia is home to many, and so too the Baltic and Scandinavian states — the so-called vodka homeland.
Tony distinguishes between those Old World vodkas and the New World ones. I had thought that all the flavored vodkas we see now were a new idea, the results of internet marketing and focus groups. Vodka has been flavored all along. Sometimes intentionally to have flavor and sometimes necessarily to literally cover up the results of poor ingredients and bad distilling.
Vodka is the best selling spirit in the United States, in large part because that “almost” neutral flavor makes it ideal for cocktails. There are 30 cocktails in this book. One, the Ruby, I posted about yesterday. The Sgroppino is described below.
But the fact is, that vodkas do have subtle flavor, certainly nose, and different viscosities engendered by ingredients and by temperature. Vodka is water plus something else: rye, wheat, potato, mixed grains, corn, or other things. Even molasses. For tasting purposes, Tony recommends the vodka be neat and cold. As it warms in the mouth, your senses are active. The book has a review of 58 vodkas from around the world and tasting notes covering every aspect of the sensory experience: nose, palate, mouth feel and finish. Plus recommendation s on what cocktails and what foods each of these 58 would best be served with. It’s an astonishing amount of detail and an indispensable guidebook for truly enjoying vodka.
There are times when you see a recipe, and you don’t have to test it to know that it will be idea. The Sgroppino here was perfected with Mario Batali. It’s from Northeast Italy, the home of Prosecco. The name means “little un-knotter” and it’s the beverage to serve after a heavy and rich meal. It’s dessert in a glass. And, perhaps, it might inspire you to a second round of dining.
It’s Easter Sunday as I write this. A rich and heavy meal is on our agenda. And I am headed out to a grocery store for the lemon sherbet I will need to un-knot myself.
Vokda Distilled was written with Mary Elizabeth Faulkner. The many photographs by Tim Turner are key factors in making this book you will enjoy, bottle after bottle.
Yield: serves 4
- 1 pint lemon sorbet, slightly softened
- 4 ounces vodka, from the freezer
- 1 ounce limoncello, from the freezer
- 8 ounces chilled Prosecco
- Lemon zest, optional
In a mixing glass bowl whisk together the sorbet, vodka and limoncello until smooth. Add the chilled Prosecco and stir to blend. Transfer to a pitch and serve in well-chilled champagne flutes. Optionally garnish with fresh lemon zest.
Source: Vodka Distilled by Tony Abou-Garmin