California Dreamin’

California Dreamin’

2 oz. 100 % Agave Tequila Blanco (I like Espolón)
1.5 oz. raw lemon rosemary syrup (begin 72 hours in advance)
1 egg white

Shake vigorously without ice (dry shake), then shake with ice and strain into an 8 oz. coupe. Top with chilled California brut sparkling wine (I used Piper Sonoma Brut).

Photo by Susan Whitney.

I’ve just returned from visiting family in Southern California, and, although we visit once a year, I’m perpetually impressed by the fruit trees and the rosemary bushes. I mean, Knott’s water park is landscaped with rosemary topiaries, for chrissake, and the City of Los Angeles has such an embarrassment of riches that it passed a law making fruit hanging over public property free for the pickin’.

The first time I saw fruit hanging from a tree, I was 26-years-old. Of course, I knew oranges grew on trees, but actually seeing, picking and eating one seemed nothing short of magical. My sister-in-law has a lemon tree in her backyard and rosemary hedges in the front, so I make use of them anytime I can. Rather than making a rosemary simple syrup as I have in the past, I’m aiming for a more concentrated expression of the fruit.

Photo by Susan Whitney.

First, I trim the ends off the lemons, then peel them with a paring knife or vegetable peeler, removing as little of the white pith as possible. My goal is to yield 1 3/4 cups of juice, so start with 6 lemons since these California lemons are like oranges. Six does the trick. I pour the juice into a wide-mouthed, non-reactive container, then mix in 1 3/4 cups of sugar and stir it into the juice until it is completely dissolved. Next, I express oils from the peels by squeezing them in my hands over the juice mixture with six 4-inch sprigs of rosemary, then dropping the rosemary and peels into the juice. I stir the mixture and macerate it with a spoon to release more of the oils, then I cover it and infuse it in the refrigerator for 72 hours. Once infused, I strain the mixture into a carafe, yielding 2 1/2 cups.

California’s dry heat sets my mind wandering into tequila territory, so I grab a bottle of my favorite blanco, Espolón. I find it tastier than many of the more expensive tequilas in the category. Thus armed, I shake 2 ounces of tequila with 1 3/4 ounces of lemon rosemary syrup, strain it into a coupe and top with some dry California bubbly. Delicious, but could be better. I decide to add an egg white to get some of that smooth body SoCal is famous for.

Like a palm tree in the sunset, the result is perfect.

Smooth, strong, not too sweet, and distinctly of the place that inspired it. Leave the egg whites out and increase the amount of sparkling wine to make punch for a crowd. I promise you won’t have leftovers.


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