2 oz Jensen’s Bermondsey Gin
1 oz. strawberry juice
0.5 oz. honey simple syrup with lavender & black peppercorns
Shake with one ice cube, then strain into a 10 oz. rocks glass filled with ice. Top with tonic water. (I used Q Tonic.)
Garnish with a strawberry.
I just returned from a two-week vacation in the south of France, which is perfect for relaxing, swimming and indulging in inexpensive, yet delicious, wine and food with friends. It is not, however, known for cocktails, which is fine with me. Hitting the reset button is rarely a bad idea.
One of my favorite past times while there is shopping the weekly farmer’s markets. I buy a basket of strawberries and pop one into my mouth. It is the best I’ve ever tasted. I decide in that moment to create a cocktail that will remind me of our visit, and I know it has to include lavender, a flower that grows like a bush in my friend’s backyard and is ubiquitous in the region.
Using lavender is challenging, however, because it tends to make everything taste like soap. My initial attempt involves muddling strawberries with lavender, mixing in Gordon’s Gin (not my first choice, but you take what you can get), letting it sit for a few minutes, then straining it over ice and topping with soda water. The result is drinkable but lacking. Next, I try using Canada Dry tonic water instead of soda but find the tonic overwhelming.
I try adding Farigoule, a thyme-based Provençal liqueur, to give it more body and depth. It’s better but still nothing I’d choose to make for company, much less write about. I decide to wait until returning to the States to have my pick of liquor.
Once home, the process continues. I try rum but find it too sweet. I phone a friend. Add lime? What about salt? Vanilla? More Farigoule? More strawberries and less tonic? Arghhh! This is the cocktail equivalent of a House of Mirrors.
Then I notice a bee hovering over our lavender bush and remember the loud buzzing of my friend’s lavender plants back in France. Honey, I think. That’s what’s missing. I make a honey simple syrup by bringing 1/2 cup wildflower and 1/2 cup boiling water to a boil, then cutting off the heat and dropping in two lavender stems with 1.5 inch blossoms and letting them steep for 10 minutes.
It tastes wonderful, but needs an edge.
I make another batch of honey simple syrup, but this time I add 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns which I lightly crush in the pan as the syrup comes to a boil, then add the lavender to steep for 10 minutes, and finally, strain. The result is both floral and vegetal, not soapy. Delicious. Instead of muddling the strawberries, I run 8 of them through a juice press making 1 oz. of juice. Finally, I grab my Jensen’s Bermondsey Gin. Two ounces of Jensen’s, 1 oz strawberry juice (c’mon be good), 0.5 oz. honey simple syrup, shake with one ice cube, strain over ice, and top with Q tonic. Et voilà!