A Killer Vesper

A Killer Vesper

A Killer Vesper

Killer Vesper

To a bar glass filled with cracked ice add:

3 oz. gin

1 oz. vodka

0.5 oz. Lillet blanc.

Stir, stir, stir with a bar spoon for a full minute. Strain into a chilled martini or large coupe glass. Some people prefer a champagne flute. Whatever. Garnish with a long zest of ruby red grapefruit peel. Now, go kick some ass like James Bond.

I had an excellent Vesper recently at Provisions, a restaurant that opened a couple of months ago and for which I wrote a piece for my gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE. Their barman Giancarlo Farina makes his with a lovely lemon dust. I went for a long sexy twirl of grapefruit zest to bring out the citrusy backbone of the gin, and to punch up the floral notes of the Lillet.

The story behind my drink:

Y’all. I got so much shit done last week: wrote three articles, took and edited photos for two of ‘em, finished butchering and making three kinds of sausage from our recent waterfowl hunt, and removed all lingering remains of Christmas from the household [there are still lights outside—it’s not redneck until after January 31, right?—but that’s The Macallan’s territory of domestic upkeep. Not touching it, or I’ll end up mowing grass and running the sprinkler system this Spring]. Feeling pretty good about kickin’ ass and taking names, for real. Then, my editor at another gig gave the big thumbs down to a shitload of photos I’d done for a story [she loved the story, just not the photos. FML.], and I started feeling all “woe is meeeee,” and my self-esteem plummeted, and y’all know what I’m talking about, right? I was questioning my professional abilities and considered bankrupting myself to buy a truckload of camera equipment and editing software and all kinds of other random-ass tech to get back in the game.

And then my ever-practical hubby pointed out the obvious to me, “You can’t do everything well.” WTF? Of course I can! Damn it, no, and gah! I hate when he’s right. I really can’t. No one can do everything perfectly, at least if they’re being honest with themselves. Truth: I love writing and am usually pretty damn good at nailing a story. I make delicious eats for my family and friends, and can throw together a fan-freaking-tastic cocktail, if I do say so myself. I’m an A+ mom, much of the time, and a supportive friend. And, yeah, I’m a hack photographer for the most part; if the object is sitting still and I control the lighting—like for food or drinks—I’m competent. But I suck at taking photos in the big frame: people, landscapes, interior spaces, the big picture. I just can’t seem to make it click [heh heh]. Now, The Macallan may have been pushing the self-reflection so that we could afford a bigger truck instead of bigger camera lenses [not putting it past him], but he made his point, and I’m back on the “go me!” bandwagon after a couple of hours of mood swings. Yes, this whole manic freak-out bit happened in the space of an afternoon.

Not a Utah pour: full sized Vesper with 3 oz gin, 1 oz vodka, 1/2 oz Lillet, stirred with grapefruit zest garnish.

Not a Utah pour: full sized Vesper with 3 oz gin, 1 oz vodka, 1/2 oz Lillet, stirred with grapefruit zest garnish.

So, I mixed up a full version [that’d be NOT a Utah-regulated 1.5 oz pour] of the Ian Fleming classic, a Vesper, to celebrate the kick-assedness of my week and my little bout of mental health growth. I even mixed it up with booze brands I’ve gotten to know really well after writing about them: Beehive Distilling’s Jack Rabbit Gin, and Sugar House Distilling vodka.* After all James Bond occasionally ran away from a fight he couldn’t win. In the meantime, I’ll work on the photography skills and stick to my budget [of course I bought one new lens. Sheesh, I don’t have that much willpower]. Fewer lenses in my book means more cash for better booze. Screw the bigger truck.

*No, neither of these brands paid me to write about their products. I just really like their stuff.

High Desert Sage Martini

You know the smell of desert sage after a rainstorm? Yup, that. In a glass.

High Desert Sage Martini

High Desert Sage Martini

High Desert Sage Martini

2 oz. Jack Rabbit Gin

2-3 dashes celery bitters

1 dash dry vermouth [seriously, just a couple of drops]

1 sage leaf, smacked lightly between your palms

Fill a martini or coupe glass with ice, and set aside to chill. To a glass filled with ice, add all ingredients except for the sage. Stir for a full minute with a bar spoon. Dump the ice out of the serving glass, and strain the cocktail into the glass; float a spanked sage leaf on top.

This year the grand total of licensed distilleries in Utah rose to a grand total of five when Beehive Distilling opened up shop here in the SLC. I wrote a piece about it for my other gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, and here’s a link to that story if you want to learn more about their stuff. I’ve heard from the distillers that Jack Rabbit is trickling onto UT state liquor store shelves a few bottles at a time.

Several folks have asked me what’s my favorite cocktail made with their first release, Jack Rabbit Gin, and it’s a tie between a sage and celery bitters dry martini [above], and a cocktail made by a kickass bar man, Rich Romney, at an event I attended last weekend [they called it the “Hachi Hive,” it’s made with honey-sage syrup; “hachi” means “bee” in Japanese]. I’ll work on that recipe this week and post it as a H.O.A.G.Y. [Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?], since a few people at the event with me have been dying to make it at home. It’s that good. I’ll pester my barkeep friend and get back to you, but I know it contains St. Germain elderflower liqueur and wouldn’t it figure, every state monopoly liquor store I’ve been to in the past two weeks was totally sold out. FML. So, for now, there’s the recipe for the sage martini, and I’m also working on getting my paws on some Ransom vermouth from Portland to try out another freaking delicious orange-zapped martini made by Takashi’s hottie barman, Jonny Bonner.

If you are a gin lover who really goes for big bold juniper flavors, this gin may not be your fave, since it’s got a more subtle juniper profile than many on the market. But I don’t understand why some critics out there feel compelled to get all bowed up about what’s the “best” gin. Quite frankly, I think there are enough badass gins out there now that it’s time we start thinking of having a gin repertoire, like many folks already do for whiskey. There are enough significant flavor differences that it’s worth trying a few to figure out what you like, and in what type of drink. And as y’all know, I’m all for R&D!

Suddenly Summer!: Cucumber-Basil Martini with a Salish smoked black sea salt rim

Cucumber Basil Martini

Cucumber Basil Martini

Holy hot spike, Batman!  We went straight from snow-covered daffodils to wilting tulips to hopeful tomato plants all in one day here in the Wasatch Mountains.  Even broke some early spring temps records yesterday.  In celebration (and yes, respite… I’m not quite ready for the 90s yet) I broke out some of my favorite summer flavors:  cucumber, basil, and the floral melody of gin.  I’ve wanted to try out some of my lovely salt collection for use on more than finishing pan-seared meats, roasted potatoes, and salad dressing.   These salts I’ve gathered mostly at my local Tony Caputo’s Market – where they thoughtfully provide 99 cent sample cups of various and sundry goodness so those fickle souls such as I can dabble and snack before commitment.   In this case, I used a finer-grained black Salish smoked sea salt on top of a cucumber-rubbed glass rim.  Delightful.  Yay for Spring!  Or at least the 3 hours of it we got this year.

A sampling of sea salts.  In this case, I used the Salish Black Smoked Sea Salt from Caputo's Market, but I also like the coarser grained Durango smoked grey salt for this cocktail.

A sampling of sea salts. In this case, I used the Salish Black Smoked Sea Salt from Caputo’s Market, but I also like the coarser grained Durango smoked grey salt for this cocktail.

Cucumber Basil & Smoked black sea salt Martini

Freeze a martini glass, or add to the glass several cubes of ice to chill and set aside.

Just before assembling, rub ½ of the glass rim with the cut edge of a cucumber and dip into the smoked sea salt of your choice.

 To a cocktail shaker, add:

1 small cocktail cucumber, sliced thin (about 4 slices of cucumber- reserve 1 slice for garnish)

4-5 leaves fresh basil

2 oz. very floral gin (I’m a fan of Broker’s for this cocktail)

½ oz. dry vermouth

4-5 ice cubes

Shake vigorously until well-frosted and frothy (about 15 seconds)

Strain into the chilled and salty goodness of that martini glass.  Garnish with a cucumber slice and a sprig of baby basil.

Isn’t that refreshing?

Now, don’t y’all put away your parkas and gloves yet, my mountain friends.  Just having made this cocktail guarantees we’ll have a freezing spell next week.  I’ve got my towels ready to cover my ‘maters, just in case.