Chill out with a boozy popsicle (a.k.a. poptail) kissed with fresh lemon verbena, citrusy Lillet, and raspberries.
There’s a small garden a few blocks from our apartment that is downright magical. It’s a permaculture garden full of fruiting and vegetable-ing plants suited to our specific microclimate here on Potrero Hill. It’s used to teach people how to garden, and it’s open to anyone who wants to come plant, harvest, weed or mulch.
This ever-evolving space is run by the Urban Permaculture Institute of San Francisco. I consider it a small miracle that this little garden hasn’t been bulldozed to make room for a four-story stack of condos, like most other lots in the neighborhood. The owner must be a saint.
My favorite aspect of this garden is the giant bush of lemon verbena that blossoms into the sidewalk. Right now it’s abloom with tiny lavender flowers. I always rub a leaf or two as I walk by for some instant aromatherapy; the bright, citrusy scent never fails to lift my spirits. And the fact that this plant exists where it does gives me a small glimmer of hope for humankind.
It also makes me crave poptails.
I got the notion to pair the lemon verbena with berries and Lillet Blanc, a citrus-kissed wine-based aperitif that I adore in the summertime (and, who am I kidding? all the time).
I first tried making the pops with blueberries. They were tasty, but the flavor of the berries muddied the brighter citrus notes of the herb and booze. Also, the berries oxidized, turning the pops a not-so-pretty purple-brown. Raspberries turned out to be the perfect pairing, making hot pink pops that sing with flavor. I’m guessing that ripe strawberries would work well, too.
The alcohol in the Lillet keeps these grown-up treats from freezing rock-hard, which is kind on one’s teeth, though you’ll want to eat them straight from the freezer lest they turn prematurely slushy. Woe betide she who tries to photograph these on a warm day…
If you’re looking for more popsicle love, you’re in luck: it’s popsicle week, as hosted by Wit and Vinegar! Peruse all the offerings on this pin board, and you can even score a hard copy of my tayberry rose geranium buttermilk popsicles this month in Click Magazine.
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Raspberry, Lillet + Lemon Verbena Popsicles
Makes 10 popsicles
½ cup (100 g) organic granulated cane sugar
1 cup (235 ml) water
¼ cup lightly packed lemon verbena leaves
2 ½ cups (10 ounces / 285 g) raspberries, plus extra for the molds
1-2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice (to taste)
1 cup (235 ml) Lillet Blanc
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, remove from the heat, add the lemon verbena, and let steep 30 minutes. Strain the mixture, squeezing the leaves to extract all the flavor. Discard the leaves.
Add the lemon verbena syrup to a food processor with the raspberries and smaller amount of lemon juice. Pulse until broken down, about 10 1-second pulses. Pour the raspberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve and work the mixture through, leaving behind the seeds. Stir in the Lillet, taste, and add more lemon juice if you feel the mixture needs it.
Divide the puree among your popsicle molds. If they don’t come all the way to the top, add some halved raspberries, pressing them down.
Freeze the popsicles until firm, at least 3 hours and up to several days. To remove, dip a mold in a cup filled with hot tap water for 5 seconds, then remove. These popsicles freeze fairly soft due to the alcohol, so devour immediately or re-freeze once removed from the mold.