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Foraged Island Botanicals
The first and only Islay dry gin

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Beginner's Cocktail Syrups

29th August 2017
by Hannah Carmichael in Our Foraging.

While a traditional gin and tonic tends to be my drink of choice, I do have much love for cocktails - so I was very excited to find out that the Botanist tours in our Laddieshop conclude with a cocktail-making session, the results of which get posted into a recipes section on the website. Of course, in keeping with the Botanist’s ethos, a lot of the recipes involve foraged ingredients. Quite often, these ingredients take the form of homemade syrups and cordials made from a whole range of plants.

As I covered in my last post [Beginner's Tinctures], my relationship with nature has always been pretty poor. Much in the same way that I found myself totally lost in the world of botanicals, the idea of making homemade cocktail syrups seemed quite complicated to me (I’m a student; anything that doesn’t come in a tin or frozen is forgotten about). As intrigued as I was about them, I ruled out the idea of being able to replicate them and make the recipes at home.

In response to my bewilderment, I was then shown exactly how to make a foraged syrup [Watch my video tutorial here! >>]. Once again, I'm here to tell you all that my initial reaction was wrong - it is actually insanely easy to do.

hannah carmichael making cocktail syrups

Foraging for flavours 

I wanted to find plants that are easily accessible by most, so my first stop was the stretch of grass outside the distillery to pick some daisies.

This was yet another lesson in edibility – the daisies were suggested to me, and I pretty much laughed. The ones I used to make daisy chains out of as a child? Turns out they’re edible! To me they started off tasting a bit like cress, but then became sweet; perhaps a bit like iceberg lettuce? I also collected rose petals (any generic rose will do), and sprigs of lemon balm. The rose tasted a lot like the "perfumes" I used to make as a child - like a diluted, floral taste.  Lemon balm is a common kitchen garden herb; here's a bit more info about lemon balm. It tastes like... well, lemon - one of the more enjoyable plants I've been forced to try this summer!

For each one, I picked a kilner jar's worth (about half a litre).

simple syrups wild flavour variations ready for infusing

Making the syrups

I started off by chopping up each plant in their respective jars, and then set about making a “simple syrup”. This is a 1:1 measure of sugar to boiling water; for this, I used 150g of caster sugar, and 150ml of water (the 1:1 ratio signifies equal measures, so a 2:1 measure would create a thicker and sweeter syrup - e.g. 300g of sugar to 150ml of water).

Add the water to the sugar, mix until it’s dissolved, and then pour the syrup over the contents of a jar. Repeat for all three… and that was it! 

I then waited around 24 hours, and then strained each jar into a bottle. This gives enough time for the plain syrup to take the flavour of the contents, as well as a nice hint of colour. Not so complicated at all!

Of course, you don't necessarily need to infuse the sugar syrup with flavour - your drinks can still be sweetened up with a plain syrup! 

 

simple foraged cocktail syrups by Hannah Carmichael

 

Using the syrups in cocktails

We decided to continue the experiment by testing the different syrups in a Tom Collins. The conventional recipe for this is 45ml gin, 15ml lemon juice, 15ml sugar syrup, 60ml soda, and then a garnish. After trying out each syrup in its own Tom Collins, it was decided that the most successful by taste-test around the Laddieshop was the lemon balm. With a little tinkering, it became the Botanist Tour's Lemon Balm Collins.

 

Here's some other examples of cocktails that can be created with syrups like these:

Difford's Guide's Gin Fix

Difford's Guide's Southside Rickey

Difford's Guide's Pink Gin

Difford's Guide's Gin Punch #2

The Botanist's Cherry Blossom Highball

 

Further Reading

https://www.diffordsguide.com/encyclopedia/486/cocktails/sugar-and-sugar-syrup

My video of making these syrups here >>

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