Vintage Daydream

Chances are, you have a strong feeling about anise and therefore about absinthe. Either it's a spirit you swear by to bring an edge to your cocktails and pay homage to classic recipes, or you avoid it at all costs. I used to be part of the latter group but I tend to view flavor dislikes as an exciting challenge. In my opinion, it's far more rewarding to make a cocktail you love with an ingredient you're weary of than with an ingredient you invariably enjoy. 

I had only experimented with absinthe once in the past, and it was somewhat of a rocky start. I didn't think twice about starting out with a 0.5 oz pour of the absinthe in a gin-based cocktail and then spent over an hour trying to keep it from overpowering all the other flavors. On my second try, I approached more cautiously. Chicago Distilling Company graciously shared a beautiful bottle of their Lanfray's Trigger Green Absinthe (available locally) and I wanted to highlight its character in a drink with broad appeal. I had recently acquired a bar spoon and decided this would be the perfect occasion to try it as a unit of measurement. It's far easier to add more of an ingredient than to have to correct for an overly zealous pour.

To complement the abinthe's herbal character, I used Chicago Distilling's Finn's Gin. Finn's is a more modern take on gin and therefore a pleasure to mix with - think less juniper and more other exciting botanicals such as green cardamom, Szechuan peppercorn and hibiscus. If you need any more reason to give it a try, Finn's keeps it local by using entirely Illinois grain. 

I wanted the herbal quality of this cocktail to be appreciable yet smoothed over for broader appeal. Egg white foam balanced out the bite from the gin and absinthe while blood orange added a bright freshness and honey contributed a pleasant hint of sweetness. I added just a bit of lemon to maintain some tartness as blood orange is much sweeter than your typical citrus fruit. The resulting drink is creamy, dreamy and reminiscent of the classics with a modern twist.

If you have some time on your hands and want to experiment with adventurous garnish, I recommend trying your hand at dehydrated citrus slices. They'll last in an air-tight container in the fridge long after your favorite citrus fruit goes out of season. Plus, though dehydrated citrus is a tad time intensive to make, the process itself is quite easy. Simply cut up the citrus (I used blood oranges for this cocktail) into 1/4" slices, place on a cooling rack layered on top of an aluminum baking sheet and place in the oven on 180 degrees Fahrenheit for about 6 hours, flipping the citrus slices halfway through the baking time. 

The Vintage Daydream

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 1 bar spoon absinthe
  • 0.5 oz honey syrup
  • Juice of 1/2 blood orange
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 egg white

Dry shake all ingredients (without ice) for 10-15 seconds, popping the cap occasionally to release the pressure from the egg white. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a dehydrated blood orange slice. Enjoy while lounging on a velvet settee and getting lost in some vintage tunes.

*To make honey syrup, heat a half cup of honey and a half cup of water in a small pot at low heat. Stir frequently until honey dissolves to avoid boiling. Allow to cool and store excess in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the tray and lovely vintage coupes.


Blood Orange Pimm's Cup

One of the greatest things about mixology is getting to try spirits from around the world and to learn about how they spread from their origin to new destinations. For example, let's take Pimm's - a low proof British gin-based liqueur with spice and fruit flavors originally created almost 200 years ago.  The traditional way of enjoying Pimm's No. 1 is to mix it with a variety of fresh fruit and top with ginger ale or lemonade. It's dangerously drinkable, refreshing and perfect for warm summer nights (this particular version is also perfect for frigid winter nights). These qualities made it a worthy candidate of being adopted as a staple cocktail of New Orleans in the 1940s, though it's now also enjoyed all around the world. Thank you, globalization.

Where am I going with this? One, booze history is always fascinating. Two, I was throwing a New Orleans themed potluck for Will's birthday and was looking for the perfect cocktail -> enter the Pimm's Cup. I knew I wanted to use winter fruit to adapt it to the season and chose to add basil rather than mint for a more interesting flavor combination. I decided not to follow the typical method of putting fruit in a glass and topping with Pimm's and ginger ale because I wanted fuller fruit flavors and less sugar (three cheers for guilt-free cocktails, relatively speaking). Instead, I muddled strawberries and basil (meaning, I squished them into pulp with a muddler to release more goodness), added fresh squeezed blood orange juice and garnished the drink with a slice of fresh blood orange to play with the sense of smell. The result was ridiculously delicious and I encourage you to try it while blood oranges are in season!

Blood Orange Pimm's Cup

  • 3 oz Pimm's No. 1
  • 2 strawberries
  • 1 small blood orange
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • Club soda, to top

Muddle strawberries and basil in a tall glass (set aside one basil leaf for garnish). Add 3-4 ice cubes to the glass then top with the Pimm's. Cut a slice out of the middle of the blood orange and set aside for garnish. Juice the remainder of the blood orange into the glass. Stir the cocktail gently until it starts to cool, then top with a bit of club soda for fizz. Cut a small indent into the blood orange slice to hang it on the rim of the glass and lower the remaining basil leaf into the front-facing side of the glass using your stirrer (or chop stick). Turn on some blues, munch on jambalaya and sip away to your heart's content!