Ellen Zachos, who has worked with us on The Botanist for several years, gives us an interesting recipe using vodka from her new book, The Wildcrafted Cocktail, Storey Publishing, which is coming out in April 2017. Read a little about Ellen here.
EZ: Last spring I was foraging on a road trip in Denver when I smelled wild plum blossoms (ume no hana in Japanese) for the first time. The perfume was so intense that I knew it had to be captured in a cocktail.
Seizing the moment
When you’re foraging on the road you have to fly by the seat of your pants; I didn’t have any kitchen equipment with me back at the motel. Fortunately, the plum blossom flavor and perfume were strong enough to be captured in vodka alone. Many flowers benefit from a dual infusion process, using first sugar, then vodka. Rather than pass up the fragrant flowers, I went with what I had and filled a quart jar with clean flowers, then added vodka. No measuring, no recipe, just down-and-dirty booze infusion.
Two days later, when I got back to my kitchen, I opened the jar and was transported back to that rainy park. The scent and taste were amazing. I strained the liquid, measured it, and combined it with an equal amount of simple syrup to make the plum blossom liqueur.
Plum blossoms seem quintessentially Japanese, even when they’re in Denver. Sparkling sake was a natural choice to balance the sweetness of the liqueur, and the verjuice adds a whisper of acidity. (Feel free to substitute lemon juice for the verjuice if that’s easier for you. And if you can’t find sparkling sake, try a half and half mixture of regular sake and seltzer water.) Bitters are the finishing touch. Without them the cocktail is merely sweet and floral. With them it’s a glass full of wind, rain, and plum blossoms.
Ume No Hana
Igredients (serves 1):
- 2 ounces plum blossom liqueur
- 1/4 ounce verjuice (or lemon juice)
- 2 ounces sparkling sake (or 1 ounce sake and 1 ounce seltzer)
Combine the plum blossom liqueur and verjuice in a shaker full of ice and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass and top with the sparkling sake. If you’re using regular sake and seltzer, add the sake before shaking and the seltzer after. (You only have to shake seltzer once to know why I’m saying this.) Finally, add a few drops of bitters.
Reproduced with kind permission of Ellen Zachos