A gin cocktail for salad days
How was your May? I’ve been seeing sunny barbecues all over my friend’s news feeds in the UK. Thankfully our surfeit of summer sun here in Dubai seems to have left its usual cousin – humidity – at home for a while. So we’ve had suppers in the garden for a few more precious weeks, the farmers’ market season was extended and the beautiful local produce continues, particularly tomatoes.
I’ve had elder teen (who won’t be a teen for much longer) home and she’s been a joy, helping out a lot especially in the kitchen. It’s fun to have someone to bounce ideas off and we work well together. Veggie teen is immersed in full-on revision for her final exams and on a countdown to leaving me with an empty nest. I’m trying to feed her body with healthy foods so her brain can do its stuff to the max.
Early last Saturday I hopped in the car and drove 50 minutes to a farm near Abu Dhabi for my weekly organic local veg particularly their candy-sweet tomatoes. We got to pick some from the vine, inhaling the tomato scent deeply. I asked for quail’s eggs and some were whipped from out from under the birds, speckled and warm. That’s the way to buy eggs.
Denzel’s cocktail for me this month involves vegetables as a mini salad garnish to complement the savoury and herb flavours of the the drink. It’s refreshing and green with umami moreishness. The base is Gin Mare which is distilled from arbequina olives and laced with Mediterranean botanicals including thyme, basil, rosemary and juniper berries along with cardamom and coriander. Citrus is another dominant flavour using a blend of sweet oranges from Seville, bitter oranges from Valencia and lemons from Lleida.
The other main element is Mastiha (or mastika), a Greek liqueur flavoured by a resin from the mastic tree that also contains Mediterranean flavours of cucumber, fresh herbs, pine needles and green acorns. If you can’t lay your hands on some, while there is no 100% accurate alternative, Bianco Vermouth adds a similar texture and herbaceous flavours.
Denzel chose agave syrup for its health benefits. “It contains marginally more calories per serving than sugar, but it 1.5 times sweeter, whilst its glycemic index is significantly lower. It contains 90% fructose rather than sucrose and is an alternative to artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners.” Personally I’m more sceptical about agave and would choose raw honey any day, but we are talking about a cocktail here… so the health benefits are moot!
- A shaker
- A strainer
- Long glass or tin can
- Cubed ice and crushed ice
- 60ml Gin Mare
- 15ml agave syrup
- 30ml fresh lemon juice
- 15ml Skinos Mastiha*
- Garnish: 2 cherry tomatoes, 2 fresh basil leaves, 2 sugar snap peas, pink peppercorns, Kalamata olives, feta cheese (or to taste).
How to mix
Put all ingredients inside a cocktail shaker with a lot of cubed ice. Shake really hard for at least 10 seconds. Strain off the ice and serve in a glass or tin over new crushed ice. Add garnishes and serve with a spoon.
Madame Fromage is a cheese expert extraordinaire who I’ve followed for many years. Her writing is a joy to read and it seems she’s a dab hand with cocktails too. The New Cocktail Hour is coming back from the UK with me this summer and a gin basil smash party is in order. Cheese and cocktail matching sound strange? Try the Greensgrow Mule with goats cheese. Just magic.
If you are missing the farmers’ market too, find an updated list of other places to get local, organic veg in Dubai during the fallow months here.
Bring on June which involves two very different travel adventures for me – the Maldives and Moscow (a bit of contrast!). What does June hold for you?