by Corin Hirsch
Cocktail writer Warren Bobrow uses the term "gartending" to describe the practice of using seasonal ingredients in cocktails. This is certainly my preferred method of mixing drinks, at least in the summer: Walk out the back door, grab a handful of thyme/basil/sage/mint/berries from the garden, them combine them into something simple, bright and delicious.
This no fuss, little muss, late afternoon method of cocktail-making doesn't always yield perfect results, but with ingredients grown yourself — or picked up at the farmers' market — the drinks are always scrumptious and fresh.
A loved one recently gifted me with a curly, fragrant lemon verbena plant, which I stuck in the ground of my kitchen garden. Though she suggested that I make tea with the leaves, the plant hasn't grown enough quite yet to cut it down for tea. A few sprigs for a cocktail? Well, yeah, that might work.
Lemon verbena is intensely, gorgeously fragrant, and a lemon verbena simple syrup — made by tossing a handful of lemon verbena leaves into a mix of equal parts sugar and water, then heating it until the sugar dissolves and then letting it cool — is a fairy-like elixir. As serendipity would have it, a few weeks after planting my lemon verbena, I also became the new owner of a bottle of is SILO Vodka from Windsor, distilled from local rye and so, so gently sweet and smooth.
Together, these things make lemony magic: SILO vodka, some lemon verbena simple, a spritz of fresh lemon juice and a splash of St. Germain (which someone I know recently called "MSG for bartenders.")
The Lemon (Verbena) Drop
2 ounces vodka, such as SILO vodka
1/5 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon verbena simple syrup*
1/2 ounce St. Germain
Sprig of lemon verbena, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake until chilled, and then strain into a cocktail glass. (You can also pour this over ice and top with soda for a spritzer). Pour St. Germain over the top, garnish with lemon verbena, and serve.