Articles in Drinking w/recipe
An arranged marriage between vodka and tomato juice, infinitely customizable with an assortment of stalk-like accoutrements, the Bloody Mary is thought to have been created shortly after World War I. An unknown American bartender in Paris usually gets the credit for creatively availing himself of some of the first tins of tomato juice imported from the United States.
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The original recipe did not contain booze. Bartender Fernand Petiot at The St. Regis New York’s King Cole Bar in 1934 added vodka to tomato juice and came up with the name. It was apparently inspired by a bar regular named Mary, left waiting for her man while nursing one of Petiot’s tomato cocktails. Bar Mary’s plight was likened to that of England’s Queen Mary I, and thus the Bloody Mary was born.
The name was considered a little racy, so Petiot improvised a new version of the Bloody Mary with gin and called it a Red Snapper. But once Smirnoff vodka took America by storm in the 1960s, making vodka more mainstream, the Bloody Mary roared again.
It has a reputation as a hangover remedy, and the Bloody Mary is abidingly good after a big night out thanks to the richness of the tomato juice, which also provides acidity. Spice comes from the traditional Tabasco, though some bartenders prefer Louisiana hot sauce, horseradish or other concoctions of their own.
Themes on the classic Bloody Mary abound, and in honor of its history, each St. Regis hotel has its own signature Bloody Mary. The luxurious Lanesborough Hotel in London, part of the St. Regis family, makes one with fresh yellow tomato juice and rosemary-infused vodka. In Kauai, the Aloha Mary is a blend of organic Hawaiian vodka, Clamato juice, wasabi, Sriracha and local guava wood-smoked sea salt, garnished with sea asparagus. For this week’s recipe, master barman Tony Abou-Ganim provides a very spicy take on the old classic, the Bloody Bull, thought to have originated in New Orleans.
Courtesy Tony Abou-Ganim, “Vodka Distilled”
2 ounces vodka, preferably one made from rye or mixed grain
2 ounces tomato juice
2 ounces beef bouillon
½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
1. Place all ingredients into a mixing glass.
2. Add ice and roll contents between mixing glass and shaker tin until well mixed.
3. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.
4. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.
Top photo: The Bloody Bull. Credit: The Lanesborough Hotel, London
Blame it on the cheap, tinny fruit cocktail that my elementary school cafeteria doled out, but until recently, I was a holdout on peaches. As a kid, I knew them as the bland, stringy, yellow cubes that floated in a bowl of cloyingly sweet syrup or that cascaded down a mound of flavorless cottage cheese.
Fresh, sliced peaches proved no better. Fuzzy on the outside, they had a tough, red strip at the center of every piece. Someone had done a lousy paring job, one that had scarred me for quite a while. It took a chance encounter with the flattened, white-fleshed, freestone Saturn to change my mind about this stone fruit.
Saturn peaches have more sugar, less fuzz
Taste, fragrance, texture and ease of eating were what won my heart. Smaller, sweeter and more aromatic than other varieties, the Saturn peach possesses everything that the fruit of my childhood did not: juicy, luscious flesh; an abundance of peachy flavor with just a hint of almond; and a bold, floral scent. Bite into this ambrosial gem and you experience the best that peaches have to offer.
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You can, in fact, sink your teeth right into an unpeeled Saturn. Its thin skin has little to no fuzz so you don’t have to remove the outer layer before consuming. If you hate peeling peaches and getting sticky juice all over your hands, arms, clothes and countertop, this is a huge selling point.
Additionally, you won’t need to wrench out or cut around a large pit. Its small, spherical pit doesn’t cling to the flesh and can be removed easily. Just cut the fruit in half, twist the halves to separate and pop out the pit.
Saturn peaches get their name from their bagel-like shape, which many believe resembles the rings of Saturn. Their squashed appearance has also earned them the monikers of doughnut, saucer and galaxy peaches. The pale yellow-fleshed version has been dubbed, fittingly enough, “Sweet Bagel.”
Although its form may be unusual, the origin of its shape is not. It arose out of a natural genetic mutation that produced a flattened, rather than globular, peach. Emerging in South China at least 200 years ago, it was known as pan tao, or “flat peach,” and was reputed to be the preferred fruit of emperors. Centuries later it’s winning fans in the United States.
Saturns thrive at Pennsylvania farm
An hour northwest of Philadelphia, in Boyertown, Pa., family-owned Frecon Farms has been harvesting Saturns for close to 20 years. During that time, these growers have watched customers tentatively sample the traditional, round peaches and then ultimately fall for the extremely sweet, flat variety. Steve Frecon points to the higher brix count of these peaches as a reason for their popularity; brix refers to the amount of sugar present in the fruit.
Although Frecon favors eating Saturns right out of his hand, he also advises using them as a replacement for Mandarin oranges in salads and dressing them with a bit of vinaigrette.
“Because of their low acidity and high sugar count, which burns off during cooking, these peaches aren’t as good for baking or preserving. They are best fresh,” he says. Yellow peaches, he adds, are better for cooking.
Should you opt to feature Saturns in a salad or pair them with other foods, keep in mind that they go nicely with almonds, apricots, honey, pistachios, pork, plums, walnuts, white and red wine, and champagne.
In spite of all its wonders, the Saturn does have its downsides. More fragile than other varieties, it bruises easily. When gathering Saturns at Frecon Farms, the peaches must be placed in shallow, half-bushel containers to prevent indentations in the fruit. Additionally, if they aren’t carefully plucked from the tree limbs, the peaches’ skin may tear at the stem.
Once picked, they should be quickly consumed. These guys don’t have a long shelf life and soon start to over-soften. However, with peaches this delicious, they won’t linger on your kitchen counter for long.
Saturn peaches are in season from July to late August, so gobble them up while you can.
If you can’t track down apricot liqueur, you can always omit it. This will leave you with a classic Bellini.
2 Saturn peaches, pits removed and cut into chunks
1½ ounces apricot liqueur, divided
Place the peach chunks and apricot liqueur in a blender and purée. Pour the mixture into two glasses and top with chilled champagne.
Top photo: Saturn peaches: Credit: Kathy Hunt
Americans have always loved rum, but it tends to be pigeonholed as a party drink, the base for daiquiris and Mai Tais but not serious sipping. That’s changing as better rums come out to compete with the mega-brands we know so well, and rhum agricole and cachaça, two other sugarcane-based spirits, get in on the game.
Launched in 2012 by bar/lounge mogul Rande Gerber and Roberto Serrallés of Serrallés Distillery in Puerto Rico, Caliche has taken off in a big way, selling 10,000 cases in its first year. Named for limestone found around the distillery, Caliche is a crystal-clear white rum, smooth and slightly sweet in vanilla and caramel, with hints of spice. Unlike most white rums, it’s aged much like a sherry, with four layers of separately aged rums blended into one. Serrallés recommends that Caliche be sipped over ice with a slice of lime or mixed into classic rum cocktails, its age lending more complexity to even a simple mojito or Cali Libre (rum, Coke, cream and lime wedge).
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Penny Blue Mauritian Rum
A single-estate, small-batch rum aged in cognac, bourbon and whisky casks, Penny Blue is a new addition to the lineup from Medine Distillery, which also has produced the popular Pink Pigeon rum since 1926. For Pink Pigeon, Medine distills sugarcane and then infuses it with hand-pollinated, handpicked bourbon vanilla from nearby rainforests, later adding orange peel for freshness. Penny Blue is the aged version, named for the world’s rarest stamp — the 1847 “Penny Blue” from Mauritius, which sold for $1.4 million at auction in 1994.
The most amazing thing about Phraya — other than the gorgeous gold adorning the bottle — is that it comes from Thailand, not a place usually associated with rum. Phraya alone may change that. It is an exceptional spirit, based on sugarcane from Nakhon Pathom province, in the center of the country. Aged in fired oak barrels for seven to 12 years, the rum is dark and exotically spicy, like Thai cuisine, rich in vanilla, honey and coconut and just right for sipping all night long.
Often called Brazilian rum, cachaça is made from sugarcane juice rather than molasses, using hand-cut sugarcane that is then fermented and distilled without additives, meaning that it’s usually pretty clear. It’s become a hot ticket in the United States, a smooth drink with the kind of herbal and botanical nuances that entice lovers of gin. It can also be aged, two to three years typically, bringing out the spirit’s darker, butternut squash and plantain notes. Aged cachaças are often enjoyed neat or as a chilled shot; the unaged go better in mixed drinks like the classic caipirinha below.
St. George California Agricole Sugarcane Rum
Made entirely from rare California-grown sugarcane, St. George’s agricole rum is akin to a sugarcane wine or eau-de-vie because of the way it is fermented. With a base of fresh sugarcane juice, it’s grassy, earthy and less sweet than rums made from molasses.
Sagatiba Pura Caipirinha
Courtesy of Campari America
Half a fresh lime, cut into wedges
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2½ ounces Sagatiba Pura or other cachaça
1. Squeeze and drop lime wedges into a rocks glass.
2. Add sugar and muddle.
3. Add cachaça, fill with ice cubes and stir.
You can get creative and replace lime with any fresh fruit for a unique twist on the classic caipirinha.
Top photo: Sagatiba Pura Caipirinha. Credit: Courtesy of Campari America
The recent downpours in Mumbai invoked the college memories of chai, that impeccable cup of milky brown brew, black tea steeped with ginger, cardamom and comfort. One typical gray June morning, a double-decker bus waded through the murky waters — ah, monsoons in Mumbai, you’ve got to love them! Pervasive dampness clinging to moist skin and polyester clothing, climbing petticoats under 6-yard saris, seeping through leather clogs.
Raincoats, umbrellas and gumboots are ineffectual in their battle with the pregnant clouds, unable to keep the virulent waters from invading the core of your being. I gingerly stepped from the bus into knee-deep water and waded to the entrance of the college canteen, joining my friends there, huddled together, deep in discussion on the upcoming practical (exam) on frog, earthworm and cockroach dissection. The gory details never bothered even the daintiest stomach as gulps of steaming hot chai provided tranquility against the angry downpour.
Chai is the lifeblood of India’s social, political and business gatherings. In a store selling silk saris, as you debate the choice of the flame red silk laced with gold or the midnight purple with a sea green border and green leaves, the owner will offer you a cup of hot chai in a stainless steel tumbler to enlighten your decision. Visit your best friend or close a hostile business deal, but first sip chai. Stroll down the dry streets of summer Mumbai or wade through a foot of standing water in the harsh monsoons, but always take a moment to sip chai, available on every street corner, hawked by vendors everywhere.
There are different variations on chai, but chai always means tea, so, if you will permit me two seconds on my soapbox, it would be redundant to say “chai tea.” It is chai, pure and simple.
Makes 4 cups
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh ginger
10 to 12 green or white cardamom pods
2 cups water
2 cups whole milk
¼ cup Darjeeling or Assam loose black tea leaves (or 8 tea bags)
¼ cup sweetened condensed milk or 4 teaspoons white granulated sugar
If you have a mortar, dump the ginger and cardamom into it and with the pestle, pound it a few times to release some of the juices and oils. Alternately, put the two ingredients into a mini chopper or food processor’s bowl and pulse a few times to break the spices down a bit and release those incredible aromas.
Bring the 2 cups water and the milk to a rapid boil, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, uncovered, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. As soon as it comes to a boil, stir in the tea leaves and the pounded ginger-cardamom blend. Bring it to a boil again, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the milk’s color changes into a light brown tint and is scented with the strong, heady aromas of ginger and cardamom, 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the sweetened condensed milk or sugar and turn off the heat. Strain the chai into serving cups and serve piping hot.
Tip: Even though I have recommended ginger and cardamom, spices like ground cloves, cinnamon, and even black pepper are great sprinkled in chai. Add it at the same juncture you would the ginger and cardamom.
Top photo: The essential chai. Credit: Raghavan Iyer
Your backyard garden is a treasure trove of inspiration for creative cocktails that don’t take hours of infusing or scouring for obscure ingredients known last to pre-Prohibition times.
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The Royalton’s drinks include the Down and Dirty Rosie, a mix of rosemary-infused Absolut vodka, spicy pickle brine and sriracha bitters served in a coupe and garnished with a house-pickled cornichon.
To get started you need only a few items — fresh fruit, herbs, limes, a muddler and Cointreau, a fantastic summer alternative to rum or vodka. Cointreau works well as a base spirit for your garden cocktails, as it adds a balanced amount of sweetness and its natural orange flavor is a smooth complement to the fruits and herbs found in your summer garden.
Cointreau cocktail and spirits expert Kyle Ford has many other ideas for what to do with the elixir, including the Cucumber-Mint Rickey featured below.
Courtesy of Kyle Ford, Ford Mixology Lab
2 ounces Cointreau
1 ounce fresh lime juice
3 to 4 ounces club soda
4 slices cucumber
5 mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
1. Muddle 3 slices of cucumber and the mint leaves in the bottom of a highball glass.
2. Add the remaining ingredients with ice.
3. Stir briefly.
4. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and mint sprig.
Top photo: Cucumber-Mint Rickey. Courtesy of Couintreau
We met more than 20 years ago in a bar in Guadalajara. It didn’t matter that Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city, sitting square in the middle of the state of Jalisco. Or even that the city is famous for charreada, rodeos where powerfully costumed cowboys, or charros, display high-velocity horsemanship for a legion of adoring fans. In the West Central highlands, what matters is pride — pride in the long tradition of the charros, the universal symbol of this place. Pride is was what I remember most about Bo-Bo, that and his magnificent margarita.
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Bo-Bo (short for Bonifacio) was a bartender in Tlaquepaque, a section of Guadalajara now considered the sweetheart of interior decorators because of their warehouse-sized shops and overstuffed galleries. But in those earlier days, things were not so precious. On one night, I wandered around El Parián, a festive city block ringed with casual cafes designed for good times and late nights. Looking around, it was difficult to choose where to go; every place was enticing. Laughter and candlelight and brightly colored clothing made each space seem more provocative than the last. The locals found it easy, as they warmed up to the place where family members waited tables or perhaps had visited for generations. I just let the spirit of the night guide me, and I walked through the next doorway I saw.
I could not have guessed from its modest entrance all which would appear before me. The otherwise dimly lit space opened up to an open-air patio, with a large gazebo where a full mariachi band played. Later I would hear that some of the best musicians in the country frequented this spot, and over the years I would raise a glass to many of them as trumpets and voices filled the space.
That night, I must have really looked out of place, a wide-eyed gringa, overstimulated with all the sights and sounds, and Bo-Bo extended a hand and a smile. He took me on a tour of El Parián, pointing out the places with the best tacos and bar snacks. He showed me where I could grab a table under shady porticoes and pull up an equipale, the locally made, rustic leather-and-wood barrel chair, and stay for tequila and music. We paused near the gazebo stage to watch the mariachi wail “Guadalajaaaaara” wearing the same traditional outfit as the charros: skin-tight pants and jackets with heavy silver-studded adornments and huge, elaborately detailed sombreros. Here, Bo-Bo told me, “Weekend afternoons have remained unchanged for generations, and nights are forever young.”
As we wandered back to his bar he proudly proclaimed that he served, “the world’s best margarita, hands down.”
Smiling at my proud guide, I said, “OK, prove it.”
And he did.
World’s Best Margarita
Makes 1 drink
Guadalajara is known for tequila. The actual town of Tequila is about an hour to the west, and it is the place where Mexico distills its finest in countless factories. Tequilana Weber blue variety agave plants (Agave tequilana) run up and down kilometers of hillsides in perfect blue-gray waves of neat rows from the lowlands to the nearby mountains. Ancient volcanoes in the distance provide the background where they push against sapphire skies.
Bo-Bo’s perfect storm of spirits is still the recipe I use today. Here is his original formula with my alternate ruby-red suggestions. But first, a few rules of a great margarita:
1. Use only 100% agave tequila because others are mixtos, cheap blends of 49% something else — mostly cane alcohol and/or sugars. My preference is clear (aka silver, blanco, white) because of its clean agave flavor unaltered by aging.
2. Never use a pre-made, artificially flavored and colored, headache-inducing, neon chartreuse “margarita mix.”
3. No slushy blender drinks. Serve “on the rocks” in an old-fashioned glass or “up” shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass.
4. Serve with or without a salted rim, but without is like a kiss where the lips never touch.
1 lime wedge
A few tablespoons slightly coarse sea or kosher salt on a small plate
1½ parts 100% clear agave tequila
½ part Cointreau
1 part freshly squeezed Mexican (aka Key) limes
Simple syrup or bartender’s super-fine sugar, if needed
1. Moisten the rim of an old-fashioned glass (or martini glass) with a lime wedge. Dip in the salt to coat the rim.
2. In a small pitcher, mix the tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Stir and taste; if it’s too sour stir in a little sweetener, but the drink should be sour.
3. Either fill an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes and then pour in the tequila mixture or pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice, shake 10-15 seconds and strain into a martini glass.
Ruby-Red Pomegranate, Cranberry or Jamaica Margarita
Makes 1 drink
Thick slice off lime end
¼ cup slightly coarse sea or kosher salt
1½ parts 100% clear agave tequila
½ part Cointreau
1 part unsweetened, sour pomegranate juice, cranberry juice or strong-brewed jamaica tea (pronounced ha-MY-ca, dried flowers of the hibiscus family, found in Mexican markets)
Simple syrup or bartender’s super-fine sugar to taste
1. Moisten the rim of an old-fashioned glass (or martini glass) with a lime wedge. Dip in a dish of salt to coat the rim.
2. In a small pitcher mix the tequila, Cointreau and juice. Stir in sweetener to taste, but keep it sour!
3. Either fill an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes and then pour in the tequila mixture, or pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice, shake 10 to 15 seconds and strain into a martini glass.
Like it hot? Quarter a fresh green jalapeño chile, remove the seeds and then slide it into the drink. Like it smoky? Float 1 tablespoon Del Maguey mezcal on top of the finished drink. !Salud!
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Store in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one month. Makes about 1½ cups.
Top photo: The World’s Best Margarita. Credit: Nancy Zaslavsky
Everybody loves strawberries, to eat or even to drink. And their appeal in cocktails goes beyond the ever-popular strawberry margarita.
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Prospect sources strawberries from Dirty Girl Farms, a 40-acre, certified organic farm near the town of Santa Cruz, for several of its dishes. In fact, it was the restaurant’s chef who reached out to see if Affrunti might like some too.
Affrunti experiments with other seasonal ingredients and spirits to come up with strawberry-based cocktails.
“With a strawberry margarita, drinkers may have only one thing on their mind, but we want to balance the sweetness out a little by using simple syrup instead of triple sec, and giving it a bit of spice.”
The Road to Rosarito is the result: a crisp, clean, approachable drink that packs just the slightest punch, thanks to the spice adorning the rim.
Road to Rosarito
Courtesy Davin Affrunti, Prospect, San Francisco
For the garnish:
Ground dehydrated strawberries
Tajín chili (a seasoning from Mexico comprised traditionally of Mexican chilies, salt and lime)
For the cocktail:
2 ounces 100% agave silver (blanco) tequila
½ ounce simple syrup
1 ounce fresh strawberry juice (preferably from Dirty Girl strawberries)
1 fresh strawberry
1. Blend equal parts crushed and ground dehydrated strawberry, salt, sugar and Tajín chili. Wet the rim of a rock or old-fashioned glass and dip into the chili-salt-strawberry mix.
2. Shake and double-strain the tequila, simple syrup and strawberry juice into the glass.
3. Add a strawberry for garnish on the rim.
Top photo: Road to Rosarito cocktail. Credit: Courtesy of Prospect restaurant
I first tasted St-Germain in 2010, while attending a wine and spirits trade show in London. There, amid hundreds of booths offering samples of every conceivable alcoholic elixir, a statuesque Belle Epoque bottle caught my attention. Once I tasted the delicate elderflower liqueur inside, I knew I’d stumbled onto something truly different.
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St-Germain is made in France, but the idea for the liqueur was born in England. While visiting London on business in 2001, a young American named Robert Cooper tasted a cocktail made with elderflower syrup, and became intrigued by its unique flavor. As it happened, Cooper was in charge of marketing for Chambord, the French raspberry liqueur, which was developed for the U.S. market by his father.
Cooper returned to the States with the idea of creating an elderflower liqueur, but soon found that the process was more challenging than he’d imagined.
“I began vigorously working on the project in 2003, and it was not in marketing until early 2007,” Cooper said. By then he’d left the family spirits business to launch his own operation, Cooper Spirits International. “It was quite difficult to make the macerations from something as volatile as a fresh flower.”
St-Germain is made from the blossoms of wild elderflowers that bloom on the hillsides of the French Alps for just four to six weeks in early spring. Once the flowers have been hand-harvested, the race is on to process the fresh blossoms before they lose their delicate aroma and flavor.
They’re immediately macerated to preserve their freshness, and each day’s macerations are successively combined until the blooming period is over.
“We make the maceration once a year, much like a wine, surrounding the elderflower harvest,” Cooper explained. That means there’s only one chance each year to get it right.
The ‘bartenders’ bacon’
Cooper’s dedication has resulted not only in a wonderfully delicious liqueur, but something of a cocktail revolution.
In the six short years since its release, St-Germain has become a key player in U.S. artisan cocktail movement.
“St-Germain came on the market when the whole mixology and cocktail scene was really starting to catch fire,” said mixologist Mike Henderson of Root Down, an upscale Denver restaurant known for its creative cocktails.
“I think one of the reasons it’s been so successful is that it’s got a unique ability to go with just about everything,” he said. “It works equally well with vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, scotch and Champagne. It’s joked about in the cocktail community as being ‘bartenders’ bacon’ – it just makes everything a little bit better.”
Henderson includes St-Germain in three of Root Down’s signature drinks, including the Hummingbird (with Prosecco and sparkling water), the Spanish Estate (with rum, sherry vinegar and bitters) and the Pepper Blossom (with vodka, jalapeño syrup and citrus juices).
The complexity of St-Germain’s flavor, he said, is the secret to its versatility. “When you taste it, you get a lot of notes of lychee, pear and tropical fruit, and there’s some citrus in there,” Henderson said. “Because it’s got that depth and variety of flavors it has the ability to bring out whatever flavors it’s mixed with. For example, if you make a cocktail that’s got pear in it, St-Germain has this ability to bring out more pear. If you make a cocktail with kiwi in it, it has this weird ability to bring out more of that kiwi flavor.”
Global domination on the horizon
The wild popularity of St-Germain among cocktail devotees on both sides of the bar led liquor giant Bacardi to buy the brand from Cooper Spirits earlier this year, with the intention of turning it into an international brand “icon” à la Grey Goose vodka, purchased by Bacardi in 2004.
Although Cooper continues to work with Bacardi as St-Germain’s “brand guardian,” I can’t help wondering if global domination will mean a compromise in the liqueur’s artisan production process.
“I have been working diligently for the past three or four years on growing our capacity,” Cooper told me. “So long as we can procure the flowers in sufficient quantities, we can make more St-Germain.”
This spicy-sweet cocktail was created by Mike Henderson of Root Down, in Denver.
1¼ ounces vodka
1¼ ounces St-Germain
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce grapefruit juice
½ ounce jalapeño-infused simple syrup*
2 basil leaves
Combine all ingredients except basil in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
Strain liquid into a lowball glass and garnish with basil leaves.
*To make jalapeño-infused simple syrup, add 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water and a fresh jalapeño (cut in half with seeds removed) to a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Let syrup cool and remove pepper before using. Will keep in the refrigerator up to four weeks.
Top photo: Elderflowers bloom in the French Alps for only four to six weeks each spring. Credit: Cooper Spirits International