This month, we offer our second installment on creative cocktails from Jesse Goldstein on the often overlooked of beauty lavender as a flavor. Hopefully you will be inspired to experiment with your own infusions to create spirits with complex, but delicious, flavors.
While the idea of infusing herbs and botanicals into spirits may seem to be more popular these days than taking a “selfie”, the practice is nothing new. Take Chartreuse for example: infused with more than 130 botanicals, Chartreuse has been made by the Carthusian Monks in the French Alps since 1737. But just because infusing is an old idea does not mean that we can’t continue to interpret (and reinterpret) the process to create flavors that are fresh, modern and, most importantly, breathtakingly delicious.
The flavor of lavender has never really caught on in this country, though for centuries it has been used around the world as an herb and condiment. (Please watch Juliette of the Herbs.) While it often finds its way into an abundance of scented candles, lotions, and soaps, all too rarely does it find a home in our food and drinks.
Recently, I’ve become partial to the flavor it imparts to cocktails. The same aromatic qualities that make lavender ideal for fragrances also make it a wonderful flavor. After experimenting extensively over the past few years, I’ve finally settled on the perfect proportions for making lavender vodka. My first couple of attempts had far too much lavender and tasted more like a lavender extract than a delicate spirit. Others batches had a good fragrance, but not that much flavor. The key, I discovered, is carefully measuring your lavender buds and letting it steep for several days.
Once made, lavender vodka can be used as substitute for plain vodka in most any cocktail and will most definitely inspire you to create your own unique libations. One of my personal favorites is a simple combination of lavender vodka and soda water. Garnish it with a slice of cucumber and it’s like sipping on a spa.
When sourcing your lavender, first make absolutely certain you are finding an organic source. The Frontier Co-op is my go-to source, but many health food stores now carry it as well. This recipe only calls for a single tablespoon, so you’ll undoubtedly have a surplus of dried lavender buds to use for future infusions—or an array of other purposes. (I’m very fond of mixing them in with my peppercorns and using that blend as an everyday seasoning in the kitchen.)
1 750ml bottle good quality vodka
1 tablespoon dried organic lavender buds
Using a funnel, add the lavender buds directly into the bottle of vodka. Recap the bottle and shake to distribute. Let the vodka steep for five days, shaking it daily to distribute the floating buds.
Once ready, strain the vodka into a clean container through a fine mesh strainer to remove the bulk of the lavender buds. Strain the vodka again through a coffee filter to remove the finer particles.
LAVENDER VODKA + TONIC
2 ounces lavender-infused vodka
.75 ounce Jack Rudy Tonic
4 ounces club soda or mineral water
Add vodka and tonic syrup to a tall glass. Fill with ice and top with club soda. Stir lightly to combine and garnish with a slice of lime.
VIOLET + LAVENDER-VODKA COCKTAIL
2 ounces lavender-infused vodka
.5 ounce Creme de Violette Liqueur
.5 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice
.5 ounce Gomme Syrup (or simple syrup)
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 10-15 seconds to chill and strain into a cocktail glass. Add a strip of lemon zest and a few lavender buds to garnish.