Hello there my friends, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been in “laboratory mode” for about 2 months trying new things out and having fun experimenting. Please allow me to share with you what I’ve been working on (you don’t really have a choice, I’m going to post it here anyways!)
Soooooo, in mid February, the Young’s Market rep tells me about this upcoming contest being put on by Domaine de Canton, a fantastic ginger liqueur. The contest was simple, come up with an original cocktail using Domaine de Canton as the base ingredient in a cocktail. The recipe needed to be uploaded to the Domaine de Canton website by the end of March, and after three rounds of judging, the overall winner would take home $10,000. You can see now why I was quite interested in creating something new.
So I thought, what a great opportunity for me to try some new techniques and stretch my imagination a bit. I wanted to come up with a cocktail that was simple, fun, and tasted well-balanced. I had played with Domaine de Canton before, but this was a different challenge, because it had to be the BASE of a cocktail. Which meant I had to work around the ginger liqueur rather than add it as a flavoring agent.
Luckily, I had already begun tinkering with some new ideas at Casa 425 after a great night out of research in DTLA. In my travels, I experienced some infusions, herbs, spices, and home-made ingredients just to name a few. When I got back to the “lab” at Casa, I wanted to see what I could come up with. What follows is what I’ve experimented with, and successfully created as new additions to the bar experience at Casa 425.
The first thing I did upon my arrival to work was to start infusing spirits. I picked vodka to work with first, since it is a neutral spirit and would take on any sort of flavoring added to it. On the hotel property, there are bountiful amounts of fresh rosemary and lavender growing freely. I instantly chose both as infusion elements, the latter being the favorite after some time.
Here you can see me holding some fresh lavender, freshly cut from the grounds.
The first thing I do is rinse off the plant of course, I only want the lavender to infuse with the vodka, not any bugs or excess dirt. I then start shoving the lavender into a bottle of vodka, usually about 3 strands of foliage. In this case, I used our well vodka, Smirnoff. You don’t need to use the expensive stuff, as the point is to turn the flavorless vodka into something more delightful.
Once all the lavender is in the bottle, all you have to do is wait. I give the bottle a good shake once or twice a day to make sure the vodka gets thoroughly mingled with the lavender. I’ve found that between 2-3 days is enough to impart just the right amount of flavor and aroma. Any less and the liquid is not distinct enough. Any more and the lavender is just too powerful and overwhelms anything you add it to. As I’ve experimented and poured it for guests, the demand increased, and so did my production. I now infuse in a large 3-liter air-tight container and store excess in large pickling jars.
The only thing left to do is strain all the lavender and solid remnants from the liquid. This can be done easily using a container and a fine mesh strainer. Make sure you have a large enough container and space to work.
I affectionately call it “lavodka” which of course is a mix of the words, “lavender” and “vodka”. I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with the lavodka, especially with citrus. The lavodka adds a nice aromatic and flavorful essence to a cocktail, but is still delicate enough to not be an herbal punch in the face.
My next fun experiment was making my own bitters. I did a little research about ingredients and processes, and after much reading, I decided to just “wing-it” and create my own different batch. After all, isn’t that how most things are made anyways? Taking a process and improvising? I didn’t want to just duplicate someone else’s work, I wanted mine to be original, no matter what the outcome. Luckily (I think), I did a pretty good job for my first attempt and the results are quite interesting. I also have enough left to last me a while, so I won’t be needing to repeat the process anytime soon.
First, I hopped on ol’ trusty Amazon.com and found that I could order four specific ingredients that I found to be in most bitters recipes I had come across. Gentian root, Angelica root, Quassia wood chips and finally, wormwood herb (YES!)
Next, I visited my local markets to pick up some spices. I snagged some allspice, caraway seeds, coriander, cloves and star anise. I have to be honest when I say I didn’t measure each of them. I used a pinch (or more?) of the top four and much less of the bottom five. I made two batches, one with dried lemon peels, and the other with dried apple peels. I covered both mixtures with an unoaked white whiskey that was 100 proof (50% abv).
This one above is the mixture with the apple peels.
And this one is the one with the lemon peels.
I let them both sit for 10 days to allow the peels and the rest of the herbs and spices to release their goodness into the liquid. I gave each container a good swirl and shake to make sure all the elements were covered in the white whiskey. I then filtered out any of the solids and kept the liquid in a separate container. I placed the solids into a saucepan with some water (again, I should have measured, but I didn’t) and brought it to boil, then lowered the heat and let it simmer for about 3 minutes to let the solids break down more. Then I strained the solids from the water and added the water to the alcohol base to cut it. Then I just kept the finished bitters in airtight containers.
So that’s how I made my own lavender infused vodka and lemon bitters, two ingredients in my new cocktail called “La Coquette”. I’ll cover my other housemade ingredient for the cocktail in my next post and finish the step by step instructions.