Drinks With “Flower Power”
Almost any edible ingredient, no matter how simple or complex, can elevate a cocktail, or destroy it. When it comes to flavor, balance is everything whether it is tempering the heat of a chili, inserting the tartness of citrus, or measuring out the right amount of sweetness. One of the most challenging flavors to use properly is that of the floral persuasion, so to speak. Plenty of options exist to play with this ingredient be it a flower-based liqueur, a floral infusion, a flower-based water, or a fresh bloom. When not used judiciously, the intense, perfume-y scent of a flower can overwhelm a cocktail; when used in moderation, it can be inspiring.
Jennifer Martiesian, Bar Manager of Big Night Entertainment Group (which includes Empire, Gem and Red Lantern in Boston) has some very specific rules when it comes to what she calls “flower power.” At the Red Lantern, the staff has two martini-style drinks that utilize floral essences, in this case rose or orange flower water. As she explains, “we rinse a glass to obtain the essence of an ingredient that would otherwise be too overpowering. The technique is simple and the outcome is a nicely balanced cocktail that perfectly pairs ingredients without any one flavor being too overpowering.”
Martiesian’s Instructions for Rinsing a Glass
- Pour about a quarter of an ounce of the rinse into the glass
- Swirl the rinse around the glass to ensure all sides are coated with it.
- Discard the excess rinse in a sink
- Pour the cocktail into the freshly rinsed glass
She cautions that if you plan to infuse alcohol with flowers, you should be aware that “flowers can be very overpowering on their own and as a result I suggest pairing them with fruit to balance them out.” Some of her fruit/flower pairing suggestions include:
- Strawberry and Hibiscus
- Yuzu and Thyme
- Strawberry and Lavender
- Rose Petal and Peach
- Fig and Rose Hip
- Blueberry and Elderflower
Ashley Terrell, Mixologist for Panache Beverage enjoys playing with fresh flowers, but like her colleague, approaches the task with certain rules in mind. “The proper way to best use a flower in a cocktail is to make sure it has bloomed already,” she notes. “When choosing blooms for consumption, it’s crucial that you get them from a source that hasn’t been sprayed with any pesticides or preservatives.
When they’ve bloomed, keep the flowers in ice cold water to make sure the flower stays hydrated and keeps the potency at a desired level. As the fragrances join forces, makes sure the flowers don’t bunch up. Certain flowers work best with specific flavors. For example, lavender with mint or lemon is my favorite floral combination as it is soothing, has long life and lends a Provençal air to anything you add it to.”
Lavender Wódka 75
Courtesy of Panache Beverage
- 4 oz. Wódka vodka
- 3 oz. Lavender syrup
- Squeeze of lemon, to taste
- 3 oz. Champagne
Preparation: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe.
Lavender simple syrup:
- About 10 Fresh lavender flowers
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1/2 cup Water
Preparation: In a small saucepan, bring the ingredients for the lavender syrup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves. Stir as needed to keep the sugar from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Transfer to a glass jar and let chill in the fridge. Strain out the lavender after 45 minutes and continue to let it chill.
Finally, one can always opt for the simplicity of a flower-based liqueur. In the recipe below, Crème de Violette is the floral arbiter. Many flowers, violets, as well as roses, geraniums, and jasmine, have been used in cooking for centuries as well as infusions for spirits. There is a delicate balance that needs to be achieved here; the liqueur should be neither too cloying nor too subtle in the bottle or in the cocktail measurement. Note below that there is only a 1/4 oz. in the drink, balanced by 2 ounces spirit and vermouth, as well as a topper of Champagne. Careful interplay of the flavors allows the Violette to shine, but not battle for dominance.
Flowers of May
Courtesy of Vincent Shakir and Shawn Shepherd; Palihouse, West Hollywood, CA
- 1 1/2 oz. Corbin vodka
- 1/2 oz. Carpano bianco or dry vermouth
- 1/4 oz. Crème de Violette
- 1/4 oz. Simple syrup
- Brut Champagne, to top
- Edible flower petal or orange twist, for garnish
Preparation: Combine all ingredients except Champagne in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake hard, strain into cocktail coupe and top with Champagne. Garnish with Edible Micro Flowers or colorful Flower petal or Orange twist.