Friday, September 19, 2008

Environmentally aware cocktailing? Excellent!!

The first thought I had when I read Washington Post spirits columnist Jason Wilson's column inspired by his recent visit to the Slow Food Nation in san Francisco was "You mean now I can go green and get drunk at the same time? Outstanding!" That must mean that my hangover is responsible and sustainable, too. In that spirit...pun sort of intended...I thought I would tip my glass in the direction of the new green tradition of getting one's groove on and make his accompanying cocktail (I love that with every column Wilson always has a recipe or two to slake my curiosity) he called The Arboretum.

What I liked about this even before I made it was that it would require a trip to the liquor store to get new imbibable ingredients as I didn't have any maraschino liqueur or green Chartreuse. Any chance to stock the expanding home bar is not to be missed so off I went. Now neither one of these are inexpensive options, but in the amounts called in most recipes for I'm guessing I'm not going to plowing through them too quickly. My local spirits provider (for you PDX readers I really like the SE 11th and Hawthorne Blvd. store. They are among the rare Oregon liquor store operators who actually realize they are in the retail business and not just peddling demon alcohol from behind the counter) only had one brand of Chartreuse and the maraschino liqueur was the Luxardo brand. Anxiously, with that illicit thrill the liquor store always gives me, I raced home with my purchases to begin my attempt at viewing environmental enlightenment through the lens of a martini glass. I put all the parts together as instructed, shook the hell out of it to crush the ice against the cucumber slices and basil leaves and strained it into the cocktail glass with barely restrained glee. I raised the glass to my lips with visions of Toyota Prius' flashing through my mind, sipped, and thought...."Man, that is a little medicinal for my taste." It was actually quite good, and I liked how shaking the cucumber and basil gave this background freshness, but Chartreuse is a very strong flavor and it was a little too sweet. I would probably back that off the Chartreuse to maybe 1/2 ounce or so and also cut back to just a dash of the syrup. But that's the great thing about cocktails: another variation means another drink! I printed the recipe below exactly like JW called for.
*** *** ***
The Arboretum
from The Washington Post

Summary (from Wilson):
This is a farm-market-fresh cocktail full of herbal, tangy flavors that will impress the slow-foodies in your life.

It requires more shaking than usual to ensure that the cucumber and basil flavors are well integrated. The cocktail's creator specifically calls for using Square One vodka and agave nectar, but Spirits columnist Jason Wilson suggests using the organic, sustainable vodka of your choice, and he likes using the honey syrup featured in the Dupont Gin Rickey, instead of agave nectar.

2 servings

Ice cubes
2 ounces vodka, preferably organic
1 ounce green Chartreuse
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce agave nectar, preferably organic
Dash orange bitters
6 basil leaves, 4 of them torn into strips
6 thin cucumber slices

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vodka, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, agave nectar, orange bitters, 4 of the basil leaves and 4 of the cucumber slices. Shake vigorously for at least 1 minute, then strain into 2 cocktail (martini) glasses. Garnish each with the remaining basil leaves and cucumber slices.

Recipe Source:
Adapted from a recipe by San Francisco bartender Alberta Straub.


Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

I think you'll find that green chartreuse and maraschino will come in very handy when making fancy cocktails -- your investment pays off quickly. (And yes, those bottles will last a long, long time. I'm a major cocktail geek and I think I'm only on my second bottle of maraschino and my third of chartreuse.)

Speaking of which: there's only one brand of Chartreuse -- it's a proprietary flavor -- so don't kill yourself looking for alternatives! :) (It does come in green and yellow versions, and a very pricey VEP... but the one you have is perfect for 95% of cocktails.)

If you like the Arboretum, I'd recommend the Last Word (which no doubt inspired it) and the Can-Can:

bb said...

Thanks Anita for your very informative and thirst inducing comment. I've had the Last Word a couple of times and really like it. More drinkable than the Arboretum. Your Can-Can recipe looks very, um, interesting. I am a fan of cantaloupe, but my wife would have the same reaction you did. I'll spring it on here before she sees what's in it. Thanks again for sharing!