It may have been an absurdly mild Chicago winter and temperatures may still be oscillating but I have officially decided that spring is upon us. Is there a snowstorm in our future? Probably. Does that need to dampen my excitement for abundant sunshine and the return of color to the world? Not at all.
I wanted to celebrate my heightened spring spirits with a refreshing and floral cocktail. My wonderful photographer and friend, Belen, offered up a bottle of Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka for the occasion. Generally, I stray away from flavored spirits because I find them overly sweetened, poorly flavored or simply limiting. A bottle of plain vodka can be used for a much wider array of recipes if you're not seeking to highlight a single infusion. However, successful flavored and infused spirits can save you effort and elevate the complexity of your cocktails.
Crop's Cucumber Vodka impressed me with it's smoothness and accuracy of flavor. The cucumber element felt natural, fresh, and easy to work with. In the past, I've loved pairing cucumber and elderflower flavors. I decided to try something new with this cocktail but to stay in the floral realm for a fragrant spring feel. Conveniently, I have a ginormous jar of dried lavender flowers in my pantry. As a relevant side note, if you ever choose to work with lavender in home cooking or mixology, it's significantly cheaper to stock up on it in bulk. I picked up a pound on Amazon and haven't made a dent in it after over a year of semi-frequent use.
I finished the cocktail off with some lemon for a hint of tartness and club soda for a lighter, more refreshing feel. If you're feeling adventurous with your garnish, you can fairly easily recreate this cucumber ribbon at home - all you need is a medium sized, preferably firm cucumber and a veggie peeler. Simply peel a few strips off the long edge of the cucumber to get to the flesh, then run the peeler carefully along the cucumber from end to end. You'll be left with a long ribbon that has peel on the outside and flesh on the inside. Form the ribbon into a squiggle shape with your hands, then run a cocktail spear through and adjust as needed.
- 2 oz Crop Cucumber Vodka
- 0.5 oz lavender syrup*
- Juice of 1/2 small lemon
- Club soda, to top
- Fresh cucumber, for garnish
Mix vodka, lemon juice and lavender syrup in a shaker and shake with ice until chilled. Strain into a collins glass over ice, then top with club soda and garnish with a cucumber ribbon or slice. Enjoy repeatedly until spring finally arrives.
To make in bulk for an event, mix an entire 750 ml chilled bottle of Crop Cucumber Vodka, 1 cup of lavender syrup and juice of 7 small lemons in a large pitcher or punch bowl (you can add fresh cucumber slices for presentation). Top with chilled club soda and serve over ice.
*To make lavender syrup, add 1 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar to a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, then add 1 tbsp dried lavender flowers. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, then strain and allow to cool. Store excess in fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography.