Local Libations: Garden Mary
By Gillian Ferguson
When I first saw Pete’s Lovage Pimm’s Cup recipe I instantly felt defeated. How could I compete with lovage? It’s rare. It’s medicinal. It’s European. And it has the most incredible name – I mean lovage, really? It’s like McLovin…in plant form.
I tried to imagine Pete’s cocktail and the flavor of each ingredient. I stopped at celery bitters. What did it taste like? No idea. But celery – the kind that arrived on my front porch in my CSA box – sounded like a good starting point.
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I have had 2 cocktails in my life that celebrated celery. One, made with celery juice, fennel-infused gin and garnished with a star fruit, I enjoyed at the Library Bar in Hollywood. The other, which I had more recently, appeared on a brunch menu at the Tasting Kitchen in Venice, CA. It was divine – celery juice, lime and vodka, served straight up with a salt and sumac rim. A deconstructed Bloody Mary if you will.
With Summer in full swing and tomatoes on my vines I took the Bloody Mary route. One little problem – my tomatoes, which I planted late, are still green. Bright green. Outside of breading and frying green tomatoes, there is little else you can do with them other than jam and pickles so I opted for pickling them and turning tomatoes into my garnish.
Fortunately my CSA, which comes from south of Los Angeles, has warmer weather and was chock full of juicy red tomatoes last week. I wanted to keep the integrity of the celery juice, so instead of juicing the tomatoes I dried them. This is a trick I learned from Blue Hill in New York City. Dehydrate fruit or vegetables, grind them, and add salt. Sprinkled on buttered bread or decorating the rim of a cocktail – it is a no fail combination. Tomato is my favorite, but arugula salt comes in a close second.
I am lucky enough to have a juicer and can juice my celery, but in case you don’t just put celery sticks in a food processor or blender, puree and then strain to get the juice.
In lieu of horseradish I infused the vodka with peppercorns to give it a fiery note. I imagine muddling the vodka with a spicy pepper like Serrano would give it an equally satisfying zing. But my pepper plants, like my tomatoes, are just shy of ripe.
While it is easy to celebrate Summer’s bounty in this cocktail – a Winter homage would be just as delicious. Kale salt anyone? Until then, for your summer garden libating pleasure I present…
Prep time: 15 minutes. (with pickling and dehydrating 1 to 3 days)
Tools: cocktail shaker, cocktail glass, juicer, mason jar, saucepan, knife, dehydrator, spice grinder or blender
- 1 oz Celery Juice (use 2 celery ribs)
- 3/4 oz Lime Juice
- 2 oz black peppercorn-infused vodka (3 peppercorns to 2 oz vodka, steeped overnight)
- a few pickled green tomatoes for garnish (click here for basic quick pickling recipes)
- tomato salt for the rim (or another flavored salt of your choice – recipe below)
- Take a lime wedge and wet the rim of your cocktail glass.
- Dip the glass in your flavored salt.
- Place celery juice, lime juice, and peppercorn-infused vodka in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with pickled green tomato and serve immediately.
For Tomato Salt
- ripe tomatoes
- Slice tomatoes thinly and place in dehydrator on 135 degrees for 12 hours until brittle and dry.
- Put dried tomatoes in spice grinder or blender and blend.
- Add salt.
Gillian Ferguson is a former baker and pastry chef. She lives in Venice, CA and writes the blog I Have a Lemon Tree.