Pom Yumtastic

In “Drink to your health with pomegranates,” the Chronicle’s Leah Greenstein discusses the nutritional benefits of pomegranates and their growing inclusion behind the bar in fancier drinkeries. Many of the cocktails described therein sound good, but this one–oh man:

At Santi in Geyserville, the Regina Viola, or Purple Queen, illustrates the pomegranate’s flexibility. Though essentially a fall fruit — the pomegranate’s season is from August through November — it makes for surprisingly refreshing warm-weather drinks. The Regina Viola blends the clean flavors of muddled lemon balm and spearmint, tart Meyer lemon juice, house-made limoncello, pomegranate juice and citrus vodka for a complex and beautiful cocktail.

I’ll take two please. The article includes the drink’s recipe, and after our impending cocktail party (this Saturday), I plan to make some limoncello, which I’ll put to good use in trying to re-create this drink at home (assuming we can still get Meyer lemons, which seem to have gone out of season).

Also of note here is a description of Charbay’s upcoming pomegranate vodka, which sounds like a winner to me. I still can’t get over how much I enjoy their clear vodka, and I’m eager to test out their flavored offerings.

Gin-Gin Mule, recipe

I’m a little ashamed of this. The Libationgoddess’s original calls for homemade ginger beer, but I looked around the kitchen one hot weekend afternoon, wanting something cooling and refreshing that we could drink in the backyard.

I thought, “I have mint, I have limes, I have Reed’s (bottled) ginger beer, and I have gin. What the hell, I’ll do a bastardized Gin-Gin Mule.” So I checked the latest Difford’s Guide and found a recipe, which I’ll adapt here, after the break.

Gin-Gin Mule

  • 2 slices fresh ginger root
  • ½ tsp. sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 2 oz gin
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • 3 dashes Angostura
  • Lime wedge, for garnish
  • Mint sprig, for garnish

Technique: Muddle ginger and sugar in mixing glass. Add whatever amount of ice you’re happy with. Pour remaining ingredients over ice/ginger. Cap with the metal part of the shaker, do the bump and grind. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass. (I double-strained, using a Hawthorne strainer and a fine sieve, because of all of the ginger bits.) Garnish with lime wedge and a mint sprig, all the while hating yourself because you don’t have the yummy candied ginger they use at Pegu Club.

Heresy: I found that muddling fresh ginger at least approximates the flavor of homemade ginger beer, when used in conjunction with a quality product like Reed’s. (Some wimpass ginger ale like Seagram’s? Don’t bother.)

Don’t get me wrong. Homemade is better because the flavors are heartier and fresher. And because I love homemade ginger beer, I’m jonesing to make some. But I might submit that Reed’s plus muddled ginger can get you a tasty gin-gin mule. Just don’t tell anyone at Pegu that I said so. I’d like to drink there again.

MxMo: Mintology Monday

MxMo MintThe third MixMo challenge concerns mint (many thanks to Rick for hosting), which is lucky for me because it grows in abundance in our backyard garden. But I had to think for a while before deciding what to make. At first, I thought to perhaps do something with crème de menthe, but neither of us really likes it, so that was out.

I wanted to use the opportunity to try something new, or to vary an old recipe, rather than going boring and doing an unaltered stand-by such as a julep or a smash. But then Jen said, “Hey, didja think about doing an infusion?” (I’ve often talked about doing one but never gotten around to it.) With that good suggestion, I hit the ground running.

Backyard mintSo I headed out back and snipped off several mint leaves. I brought them inside, washed and dried them thoroughly, put them into a mason jar, and poured Very Old Barton bourbon over the leaves. I let it steep for three days, sampling it each evening, before finally removing the leaves. I used the minty VOB as the base for a simple, minty old-fashioned: bourbon, sugar, and bitters over ice, garnished with mint. It was nice, but not really that dissimilar from a julep.

Minty Old FashionedAs an unrelated “project,” I hit Google to find some good non-Negroni recipes that called for gin and Campari. I wanted a new (to us) recipe using Campari since although we both like Negronis, we wanted to try something different. In the midst of searching, I came across a Yelp.com review of a California restaurant called Cascal. The comments on the review included this intriguing quote:

Went here last night on a friends recommendation. Started with the La Gitana cocktail (gin, campari, mint, lemon and lime juice) which was good but awfully small for $8.

Those ingredients intrigued me, but I was on my own to determine proportions and preparation techniques. I hit up Google for more information but found nothing. If anyone’s encountered this drink before, please tell me. So one night last week, I experimented. I muddled mint leaves in a mixing glass with sugar and added equal parts gin and Campari, and a half-part each of lemon and lime juices (in other words, the combined citrus juices totaled one part–to balance the gin and Campari). The resulting cocktail was satisfying, but possibly too minty and sweet.

La GitanaSunday night, I tried again. This time, I kept the liquid proportions the same but I reduced the sugar and I didn’t muddle the mint. The mint still released its oils during shaking, thus flavoring the drink, but it was a subtler component of the cocktail. The result is a complex, well-balanced drink. What’s funny about it is that the Campari lays low while you sip, waiting until the finish to really kick your teeth.

La Gitana

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 4 mint leaves

Shake all ingredients over ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. You can fine-strain to filter out the bits of mint leaves, or you can keep them in like I did and leave out a garnish. (I think they’re pretty, but they’re not to everyone’s tastes.)

This will sound strange, but I must confess to disliking the name “Gitana.” It’s the Spanish feminine form of “gypsy,” and it’s just a bit, I dunno, kitsch for my tastes, calling to mind gypsy stereotypes. But I don’t know when a drink becomes “yours” enough that you can rename it, so here I’ll just call it Gitana.