Two foragers' perspectives on "clear magical birch water" that can be evaporated to "thick black gold", and how to DIY do it!
Mint - the drinkers herb
I can remember entering a bar in the historic town of Bath and the owner bought me a Negroni, he was insistant that it would be the best Negroni I had tasted due to his vermouth - Antica Formula Carpano and I have to admit it was pretty good.
1 Part Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth
1 Part Campari
1 part Botanist
Certainly better than the Negroni I'd had the previous week during a stay at a chain hotel with just Martini Rosso, Gordons and Campari available and a bartender who'd never heard of a negroni! It wasn't the first time that a bar owner or bartender had been meticulous about the brands that they used in their drinks. Indeed, a good bartender will have tried many versions of the same drink and will have used many different brands, eventually finding the varieties they think work the best in any particular drink.
Yet when it comes to herbs, varietal differences can often be overlooked. Mint is a classic example. I looked at a cross section of drinks from Diffords Guide, thebar.com and cocktailflow.com, I also checked the PDT cocktail book, How To Drink by Victoria Moore and the Jerry Thomas classic The Bartenders Guide, How to Mix Drinks / The Bonvivants Companion the latter being the only one that specifies a number a mint leaves and to use tender shoots (in one recipe) but not a single one mentions which variety to use.
I guess the reason isn't due to some massive oversight by the bartender, writer or cocktail designer, but rather the supermarkets, health food store or greengrocer as they only seem to stock peppermint or spearmint. Arguably, this is due to demand but, in actuality it is much more likely down to education. If the public were taught more about just how many varieties of mint there are then they would soon be demanding for more variety. It could even be a mint revolution that starts at the local bar, we just need to start tasting more and what better way than with cocktails?
Chocolate mint - Mentha × piperita f. citrata
A mint that actually tastes like chocolate!
15ml creme de cacao
15ml green creme de menthe
1 teaspoon single cream (half and half)
2 sprigs fresh chocolate mint
Chocolate Mint sugar
First make the mint sugar by drying the chocolate mint then, using a coffee grinder or the nut setting on a blend grind the sugar and mint together at a ratio of about 1 sprig per two tablespoons of sugar. Then pour the sugar onto a saucer, wet your glass around the rim and roll in the saucer. Note- you can use cacao sugar syrup or even creme de cacao to wet your glass to add some more flavour.
Next muddle your chocolate mint at the bottom of your shaker then add all the ingredients over three cubes of ice and shake. Strain into your rimmed glass and server with the other sprig of chocolate mint.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Basil Mint - Mentha x piperita f.citrata 'Basil'
Having experimented with basil replacing mint in Mojito's I can advise that it works, especially if you use raspberry rum! But for the cooling cut of the mentha, basil mint creates a happy medium between the two.
The Cuban oddball
45 ml of raspberry infused rum
6 Basil mint leaves and a sprig for garnish
half a lime
2 tsps caster sugar
Cut the lime into wedges and place into a highball glass add the sugar and mint and muddle. Throw in some crushed ice and pour over the rum. Top up with soda water and garnish with a sprig of basil mint.
Grapefruit mint - Mentha x piperita f. citrata 'Grapefruit'
Another mint where a clue to the taste is in the name.
Gin Gin Grapefruit Mule
12 Grapefruit mint leaves
30ml simple syrup
15ml Grapefruit juice
60ml chilled ginger beer
Put your mint into the metal part of a Boston shaker, muddle then add the simple syrup, grapefruit juice and gin along with some ice. Shake then strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and top up with ginger beer.
Find out more about the varieties of mint used in the making of The Botanist >>