The 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.
So 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.
As 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.
Sunday 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.
- 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.