The art of cocktail mixing has long fascinated me, so I was pleased to learn that in restaurants, the pastry kitchen is sometimes in cahoots with the bar – not just by trading sweet-toothed bartenders a dessert for a drink, but sometimes by making syrups and infusions to be used in libations.
At Farallon we would candy hibiscus flowers to garnish a cocktail mixed with hibiscus bitters. After a lively chat between me, my chef, and the head bartender one night, I confessed my interest in mixology. My chef replied, “We had a pastry cook here once who was into making drinks.” She looked me in the eye. “She wasn’t a very good baker.”
I didn’t know quite how to take that. But at my current job (ahem – as a pastry chef), I delight in helping the bar out when I can, especially when I get to sample our collaborations. I make a lucuma puree with peruvian “eggfruit” for use in a pisco sour, a chocolate syrup for another pisco cocktail, and chicha morada, a fruity punch made from purple corn, citrus peel and spices.
At home, however, I rarely have the patience for waiting for a syrup to simmer or a spirit to infuse (though I make an exception for tonic syrup!). So I’ve been whipping up this refreshing beverage made from ginger root, agave and lemon for instant cocktail gratification.
My favorite drinks are those that are fizzy, tangy, not too sweet, and made from fresh and natural ingredients. Last week, a discussion between Jay and myself turned to the concept of whiskey with ginger beer, and I suddenly found myself quite thirsty. We rarely have soda in the house, so I grated some fresh ginger on a microplane into a pulp, then added agave, lemon juice and whiskey, strained the mixture over ice, and topped it all off with chilled sparkling water. The ginger lends a spicy heat while tart lemon refreshes. The bourbon blends beautifully with the other flavors, while adding a smoky richness.
We tested this with Irish whisky (Jameson, our favorite sipping whiskey) and bourbon (Bulleit), and the bourbon won, hands down. The Jameson was so mild and floral that it made the cocktail taste boring; bourbon’s tart bite made for more complex sipping. We’ve been drinking them fairly non-stop.
Hopefully, all this “mixology” won’t diminish my baking abilities too much.
Sparkling Whiskey Gingerade
I use a microplane to grate my ginger into almost a pulp; alternately, use the finest holes on a box grater (the ones that look like x’s with holes in the center), or mince the ginger very finely. Except for the ginger, the ounce measurements are by volume here, the way real bartenders do it.
Makes 2 drinks
1/4 ounce by weight fresh, peeled ginger, very finely grated (1 teaspoon)
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) agave
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) bourbon whiskey
In a pitcher, combine the ginger, agave, lemon juice and bourbon. Stir to combine. Strain into glasses over ice, and top with sparkling water.