Local Libations: Cucumber Sage Martini
By Marc Duquette
About a month ago, my daughter Aimée offered me a sip of “Aura Cucumber Lemon Rosemary Botanical Water” – a non-alcoholic, organic, vitamin infused drink that she stumbled upon at the local grocery store. Who knew a cucumber-based drink could taste so crisp and so refreshing! I immediately started considering my options for turning this drink into a pleasant summer cocktail. Is it a cop-out to relay lemon juice off Kat Durant’s Honey in the Rye post last week? Well that’s what I’m doing! What piqued my interest about this drink is its link to my organic garden. It has been a banner year for cucumbers—I have a zillion of them, and I’m perpetually snipping and using backyard herbs in my kitchen (see Marc’s Top Ten Herbs). It seemed like an appropriate fit.
I then consulted my friends at Google for a primer on cucumber-based cocktail recipes. There I found the frequent pairing of cucumber and herbs such as mint and basil in martinis, Collinses, mojitos, slushes, and spritzers. I even found cucumbers appearing in soda (Cucumber, Mint and Basil Soda at bonappetit.com). In each cocktail, gin, vodka or rum is the featured spirit. I’m opting for gin in my martini.
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The botanical water that inspired this exploration featured rosemary. For this drink I did try rosemary, but I also experimented with common sage and pineapple sage. Sage is a resinous, piney herb that can usually be interchanged with rosemary and should pair well with gin, an herb-infused spirit with similar “piney” characteristics. Although you can use any of these herbs for this recipe, I ultimately settled on common sage.
Now to find a good gin….In New Hampshire, all hard spirits are sold in State-run liquor stores. (If you’ve been through New Hampshire you’ve undoubtedly noticed the strategically placed stores along the State highways). Having access to some of the larger State stores gives me a shot at finding something unique, perhaps even organic or local, perhaps with a story to tell.
So that’s where I ultimately discovered the hand-crafted Cold River Gin from Maine Distilleries, LLC, located in Freeport, Maine. In the mid-eighties when we were running away from carbohydrates in favor of Dr. Atkin’s diet, potatoes were piling up on Donnie Thibodeau’s Green Thumb Farms in Fryeburg, Maine. As the saying goes, “When life gives you….err…potatoes, make…hmmm….vodka and gin.” So along with a few partners, Maine Distilleries, LLC was born. Maine Distilleries claims to be the only distillery in the country that controls their spirits from “ground to glass”–that is they seed, grow and process the potatoes; they distill, bottle and distribute the vodka and gin. Although not an organic farm, Thibodeau uses Best Farming Practices and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to minimize the use of pesticides. The distillery’s website hosts an impressive collection of national and local press, accolades, and awards.
The gin, just added to the product line last summer, is infused with a “secret blend of seven traditional botanicals: juniper berries, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, angelica root and cardamom.” Sounds like the perfect concoction for my Cucumber Sage Martini.
Cucumber Sage Martini
Prep time: 10 minutes, 5 minutes to prepare the simple syrup (can be made ahead of time), 5 minutes to prepare the
Yield: 1 serving
Tools: Cocktail shaker
- 2 Tablespoons ginger infused simple syrup–see instructions below
- 1 chunk of cucumber 3 inches long, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 sprig of sage
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For the Ginger Infused Simple Syrup
- Dissolve equal parts cane sugar and water (one cup each) in a pan over low heat until sugar is fully
- Squeeze 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger over the pot to extract the juice.
- Set aside to cool. If not using immediately, refrigerate in a glass jar for later use.
For the The Martini
- In a cocktail shaker muddle cucumber and sage leaves.
- Add the simple syrup, lemon juice, gin, and ice. Then “shake it up baby.”
- Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a slice of cucumber and a fresh sage leaf.
Marc Duquette is a gardener in the “Live Free or Die” State, check out his Marc’s Garden website here. He is not a mixologist and certainly welcomes your comments on this recipe.