Living in the Midwest, you get used to unexpected seasonal patterns. Some years, we get graced with a beautiful spring but usually it's a bit of a climate roller coaster. Don't get me wrong, I love seasons. It's the change and uncertainty that make us Chicagoans appreciate nice weather when it happens and to fully take advantage of it. After six months of winter and several April snow showers, I was thrilled to see crisp green buds appearing on trees and fragrant flowers popping out of the ground. Even with some unavoidable variation in temperatures, we've been spending every evening dining on the rooftop and delighting in the sunset displays. For me, springtime evokes a transition from anticipation to wonder as life and color return to the outside world.
I wanted to capture the coming of spring in a brunch-friendly cocktail just in time for Mother's Day. My goal was to create something delicate, fragrant and wonderfully smooth. I had recently gotten my hands on some St. George California Citrus Vodka and let its crisp floral flavors inspire my brainstorming process. Gravitating typically to gin or whiskey, I hadn't previously found a vodka to write home about. I typically approached vodka as an ingredient to disappear and allow the other components of the cocktail to shine. This vodka, however, is so ridiculously delicious that it can easily be enjoyed neat at room temperature. Built on a foundation of Barlett pears with no additives, the vodka is then infused with Valencia orange, Seville orange, and bergamot peels. The resulting spirit shines with bright citrus and herbal notes with an almost sweet juicy finish.
I thought the vodka would pair nicely with a jammy flavor so I incorporated some cold-brewed hibiscus tea. Hibiscus has a stunning natural hue and a vibrant tartness that I thought would enhance, rather than overpower, the vodka's citrus notes. Then I decided to get a little weird and try out an ingredient that has always mystified me in cocktails: yogurt. Though it sounds bizarre, Greek yogurt in particular can add to a cocktail's tartness while also imparting a creamy texture. I promise that it doesn't taste like eating a spoonful of plain yogurt - you just need to be smart about the other ingredients you mix it with. I chose to work in a wildflower honey syrup to take the bite our of the yogurt and blend it in as a more complimentary rather than center-stage component. The honey worked beautifully to tie everything together and balance out the tartness of the hibiscus and Greek yogurt.
I finished the drink with some stunning edible flowers I spotted at Whole Foods. I have been hunting for these in stores for some time and haven't yet had the chance to plant them in my own garden. Whole Foods packages up a variety in the refrigerated herbs section - just be sure to get them shortly before you plan to use them as they do spoil quickly. I love how the flowers enhance the vibrant character of this cocktail and create an extra special treat for whoever you choose to share it with. The resulting cocktail is lightly tangy with notes of citrus and jam rounded with a creamy sweet smoothness. It's delicious at any time of day, but I think it would be especially wonderful with brunch.
A Long-Awaited Spring
- 1.5 oz St. George California Citrus vodka
- 1 oz cold-brewed hibiscus tea*
- 0.5 oz wildflower honey syrup**
- 1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
- Edible flowers, for garnish
Add all ingredients other than flowers to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until chilled and frothy. Strain into a Nick and Nora or other stemmed glass and garnish with 1-2 edible flowers. Enjoy outdoors to complement the delicious brunch you prepared for your mother.