Here it is Friday afternoon, and I am shopping at the farmers’ market in Kennett Square, one of several produce fairs in the area that alternate from town to town according to the day of the week.
But I’m not looking for something fresh and scrumptious for dinner tonight. Instead, I’m searching for something good to drink during the weekend—or rather something that will make for a good drink ingredient, a garnish, or even serve as inspiration.
This afternoon, my mind is focused on something called “garden-to-glass.”
Garden-to-glass is the next step along that culinary country path that has taken us from “shop local, shop fresh” to “farm- to-fork” to “drink local wine.” What got me started was a conversation I had a few months back with Kim Haasarud, a drinks consultant, mixologist, and author of recipe books for drinks (101 Mojitos). Kim told me she gets more of her drinks’ flavoring ingredients from farmer’s markets than from beverage suppliers. When I took a trip to market with her in Union Square in New York, it was an eye-opener.
Here’s how it works in practice:
Here at the Kennett market, see those yellow heirloom tomatoes in the crate over there being kept cool out of the sun? I love a good Bloody Mary, so what if I take some of those juicy tomatoes and make them into a Bloody Mary from scratch? Would that freak out my friends if I served them a Bloody that was yellow? Maybe I’ll call it a “Bloody Makeover.” Or, if it tastes terrible, a “Bloody Awful.”
Then there is the stand here with all the fresh herbs. The sage and rosemary would be great help in inventing new savory cocktails—anything that uses bouillons, vegetable juices, vodka, or even tequila as basic liquids. And the mints and lavender would blend well into sweeter or fruitier concoctions made with whiskeys.
Speaking of fruits—they are naturals for blending with the sweet tastes of American whiskeys, such as bourbon, rye, or sour mash, whether the fruits are mulled (mashed) in the bottom of the glass or pulverized in a blender and then strained. Anyone can experiment with making original whiskey-based cocktails using fresh strawberries, raspberries, or peaches. Just add some whiskey, some bitters, or fresh orange peel to balance the fruitiness, perhaps some Vermouth and a little simple syrup or just plain sugar. Of course, you can always find fresh local honey at the market for sweetening drinks and perhaps even experiment with maple syrup or molasses.
And mojitos—don’t forget about fruits for mojitos, those refreshing rum drinks that started in Cuba.
Of course, I can alternatively use fresh fruit to whip up a batch of homemade Sangria, perhaps marinating the berries and cut citrus in a gallon or two of Paradocx Winery’s Barn Red local wine from Landenberg.
How about adding a little froth and body to our drinks? Stop at the Amish stand here at the market for farm-fresh eggs from Lancaster and whip one as an ingredient in a rye drink. Or, better yet, what about creating our own brand of summer eggnog? Use fresh eggs, some local ice cream from Woodside Farm, and a generous pouring of regional whiskey such as Hudson Manhattan Rye. What else should we put in there?
OK, let’s switch gears and spirits. How about getting a handful of those hot peppers in the basket over there? We can infuse them with some Penn 1681 rye vodka made in Philadelphia. Homemade infused vodkas are easy to concoct and are so much more fun to drink than the commercial versions. Plus you can put them into used wine bottles, re-cork them and give them to friends as party favors or special gifts. Sure beats a jar of jelly. Let’s keep our eyes open for other spices and vegetables that might give good flavors to infusions.
Of course, we can always find things here at the market to use as garnishes. Cucumber slices for your Hendrick’s martinis, fresh celery and carrot sticks for Bloody Marys, and berries or slices of peaches for frou-frou rum drinks. And those thin, spicy, chewy, pre-cooked sausages are great to use as stirrers for Bloodies—for those of us who like a meat with our drinks.
Of course, not all the drinks need to be alcoholic. There are many variations and combinations of blender-made fruit juices and smoothies to try, strained or not. And try flavor-your-own milkshakes, starting with milk and basic vanilla ice cream. Chunky, straw-clogging shakes flavored with fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and peaches are all good starters. But you can also look for more exotic flavors, such as that section of watermelon.
OK, my shopping bags are overflowing. Time to pay up and make some garden-fresh drinks.
3 lbs ripest yellow tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 Tbs sugar to start. Depending on the acidity
of the tomatoes used, you may have to adjust later.
1 cup chopped celery with leaves
2 Tbs chopped horseradish salt, and black pepper to taste
2 shakes Tabasco
3 shakes Worchester sauce
1. Put all ingredients into a large stainless steel pot and simmer uncovered until thick and soupy, for about 30 minutes. 2. Strain through a sieve or food mill, chill and refrigerate. 3. When cool, mix over ice with vodka to taste, or about 3 to 1 in favor of the tomato mix. 4. Garnish with thin sausage or celery stick.
Makes 1 Quart
“101 Mojitos and Other Mulled Drinks” ~ By Kim Haasarud
¼ cup watermelon chunks
10 seedless red grapes
2 basil leaves
1-½ oz simple syrup (or 2 Tbs sugar)
1-½ oz fresh lime juice
splash of soda water (or vodka, if you must!)
1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle (mash) the watermelon, grapes, and leaves.
2. Add lime juice and syrup. 3. Top with ice and shake vigorously.
4. Pour in tall glass and add soda water (or vodka).
Choose your flavorings or combination of flavorings (spices, fruit, vegetables, etc.) and the amount you want to make in sealed Mason jars.
Clean everything—the jars, the fruits, and the sprigs of spices.
Put the flavorings in a jar. Don’t overdo the amount—you can adjust the next batch. Fill with vodka and seal.
Store in a cool place. Shake two or three times daily.
The more aggressive the flavoring (hot peppers, say), the less time you will need. Mellow fruits will take longer. Start at 3 to 5 days, then taste. When you think it is perfecto, strain, and rebottle. Cork or screw tightly.