Elder in Leaf
Removing the violet petals takes patience
Two cups hot water to two cups of violet petals
The strained violet water
Bottled violet syrup
The Botanist Islay Dry Gin
The Botanist, violet syrup and slimline tonic
The common dog violet (Viola viviniana) is abundant on Islay in spring. We were out foraging with Ellen Zachos from New York who recommended at least 2 cups full of these tiny little flowers to make a syrup and we soon found a large patch near the old abandoned village of Olistadh on the Rhinns. A few minutes pleasurable work and we had enough for our needs.
To prepare the syrup we removed the petal heads from each violet (make sure you have plenty of time and patience - thanks Isadora!) and then covered them with equal amounts of hot, boiled water (2 cups). Within minuites the water had started to leach out the colour and turn a delicate shade of blue.
Ellen’s instructions were: “After macerating for 24 hours, pour the violets and water into the top of a bain marie (put a bowl over a saucepan of water if you don't have one). Add 1 (or 2) cups of sugar and whisk gently over medium heat until the sugar fully dissolves. Don't let it boil. I say 1 or 2 cups of sugar because people like different levels of sweetness. Most people do it with 2, i.e. equal parts water and sugar. Personally (and especially in cocktails) I like it a little less sweet. You can always add 1 cup, taste it, see what you think and add a little more if you think it needs it.
Strain the violets from the sugar solution, pour the liquid into a bottle or jar, cover, and refrigerate. This should last in the refrigerator for a few months. The violet color is sensitive to pH, so it will change depending on what you combine it with.”
We tried the syrup with neat gin to start with – which produced a lovely violet blue drink. We then added a little Schweppes tonic water and a good squeeze of lemon juice which turned the colour a dusky pink.
As Ellen had said - acid is the key to controlling the colour so to really test it we added a big splash of vinegar (ie acid) and the liquid immediately turned a violent pink . Sothat worked … but we wer not going to drink it though....!
The second serve experiment was to make a delicious B&T. Over heaps of ice we added equal parts of The Botanist to our violet syrup. No lemon this time but being a diabetic friendly house we tried a slimline tonic…WOW. The B&T was a vibrant, electric pink colour; beautiful... and delicious. Cheers!