Okay, so you’ve been to a few holiday parties already this season and that has inspired you to give one of your own or you’ve been nominated to co-host an informal get together…only for your boss and 20-something of their closest friends…yikes!!! Either way no pressure, right??
What I’ve always found for situations like these is – less is more! Choose one white wine, one red wine and, especially since it is the holidays, get creative and offer a signature seasonal cocktail. One that I have rekindled a fondness for this season is the Gin Smash. Oh come on now, hear me out… I realize for some that gin is a tricky fellow, but have you tried it lately?
First and foremost gin is meant to be mixed! If ever you see shots of gin going around, run the other way. I hear a number of people say, “It tastes like a fir tree.” That’s when I say, “‘Tis the season!” Seriously though, this is most likely because the gin to tonic ratio was out of balance and when that happens, yes it does indeed taste like an evergreen. You can take comfort in knowing that gin tasting like a tree is actually quite natural, as gin is basically vodka flavored with natural botanicals, most notably juniper berries. So why bother you ask? The botanical influences of gin allow for complexities in flavor and especially in aromatics which is one of the most important factors of our sense of taste. When you pair these characteristics with an aromatic herb and an able fruit, magic happens. So let’s get cracking:
2 oz Gin – There are a few super boutique distillers around taking handcrafted gin to another level. A few are Uncle Val’s, Monkey 47 and a new one the Principe De Los Apostoles. Most of the botanicals used to make the Principe De Los Apostoles Mate Gin come from Misiones, Argentina, though the gin itself is made in Mendoza. The botanicals include peppermint, eucalyptus, pink grapefruit skin and yerba mate, which is used to make a popular drink in South America and captures the spirit of Argentina rather well. The Los Apostoles is one of the first premium gins from Argentina, and a tasty one at that.
1-2 oz Simple syrup, to taste
5-7 Basil leaves per cocktail, depending on size
2-3 drops Angostura bitters
2-3 Lime wedges per cocktail
Cocktail shaker or tin
- Place your basil and lime in the bottom of the glass.
- Add your simple syrup and your desired amount of bitters.
- Muddle, muddle and then muddle again… You want as much of the oils in the basil leaves and juice in the limes to come out. Be careful not to pulverize. Instead, ‘finely chop.’
- Place your measure of gin in the tin, add ice and shake, shake, shake, and then shake some more. When you see the condensation on the outside of the shaker turn a bit white you’ve done it right!
- Empty contents into a rocks glass and add new ice if desired. Taste it, if it needs more sweetness, start slow–less is more. Also, remember there are only a few ingredients in this cocktail that tame the alcohol, so be accurate on the measures and if it comes out a bit strong, shake it again.
The color will be a bit like sea foam green, very mellow and cool. Garnish with whatever you find most festive: Cucumber rounds stacked in shape of a holiday tree, a whole basil leaf, a sprig of rosemary, cranberries, redcurrants… Have fun with it!
Heather Burton, Wine & Spirits Supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineheatherb