Local Libations: The Spanish Jade – a Raspberry Shrub
I am a proponent of daytime drinking—in moderation of course, since nothing’s more annoying to me than wasting a perfectly beautiful summer day by, say, passing out at 2 in the afternoon. Still, nothing beats a bloody mary like Louisa’s to accompany brunch, or a refreshing fruity libation in a sunny, warm backyard.
Louisa’s cocktail last week happily inspired a little bit of day drinking. I decided to stick with the theme and create a sweet-ish partner to Louisa’s savory creation, one that could be enjoyed as much before noon as after sunset.
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Berries are bountiful right now in the northeast, and last week Valerie and Eugenie took advantage of that bounty, incorporating blueberries into their Flounder in Papilotte recipe. I decided to show raspberries some love, using them to make a shrub. My raspberries came from Berried Treasures at the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan. A pioneer farmer at the Greenmarket (and an NYC local libation favorite), Berried Treasures can be found in Union Square on Wednesdays, Fridays and, currently, Saturdays, and at the 77th Street and Columbus Avenue Greenmarket on Sundays.
Fruit shrubs hearken to the colonial days, pre-refrigeration, when vinegar was used to preserve the fruit from spoiling. With the rich sweetness of fruit and sugar balanced with a tart backbone of vinegar, shrubs are an excellent summer drink on their own with a splash of soda, and even tastier with a bit of alcohol.
A fan of all things Spanish and particularly of sherry, I’ve been seeking to perfect a recipe combining the flavorful nuttiness of a darker sherry with the tart and fruity brightness of a raspberry shrub. Until now, it had been missing something. Sherry, for me, is difficult to negotiate with as a base liquor. The qualities I adore about it when drunk alone—dryness, robustness, nuttiness—have translated into flatness in a cocktail. I owe gratitude to Louisa for providing me with the element my cocktail had been missing – tea. A simple syrup infused with green tea gave my drink that fullness in the mid-palate that it needed.
The fact that I’m a coffee drinker was immediately apparent to Oliver, the proprietor of a delightful, fairly new tea and spice shop in my neighborhood. Sullivan Street Tea and Spice Company has been open since March and is a wonderland of spices, teas and herbs, straight out of Diagon Alley. I’m sure I looked more than a little befuddled, staring slack-jawed at the endless rows of jars filled with teas and spices, and Oliver was quick to offer his assistance. “Um, I’m kind of boring,” I said, “I just need some green tea.” Oliver laughed and replied: ”Green tea is anything but boring.” After I explained to him why I needed the tea, he worked with me to find five different options. A smell test narrowed the choice down to two: Ancient Beauty Green and Gyokuro, a shade-grown Japanese tea. While the Ancient Beauty syrup on its own was more appealing, it turns out the Gyokuro worked the best in the cocktail itself.
Gyokuro translates to Jade Dew, in reference to its color. It so happens that The Spanish Jade is an early 20th century book and movie (a lost silent film on which Alfred Hitchcock worked). According to Amazon, the story reveals the very soul of Spain: “Passion, Cruelty, and Bravery Under the Hot Sky of a Laggard Land.” Who wouldn’t want to drink something embodying that? I therefore present to you the Spanish Jade.
The Spanish Jade
Prep time: 2 days
Yield: 1 cocktail, though the shrub and green tea syrup can be refrigerated for later use. Both will yield several servings.
Tools: 2 non-reactive bowls, measuring cup, fine mesh strainer, whisk, spoon, small saucepan, tea infuser, jigger, shaker, strainer
- 1 cup fresh raspberries, plus 1-3 berries for garnish
- 1 cup Champagne vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups Demerara sugar
- 2 teaspoons loose Gyokuro tea
- 1 cup water
- 2 oz. sherry (Amontillado or Palo Cortado)
- Soda water
- Raspberry shrub: With your hands, gently bruise 1 cup of raspberries and combine with 1 cup sugar. Let sit overnight or for 2 nights. Strain into clean bowl. Transfer any remaining sugar that has clung to the original bowl to the strained mixture and stir until absorbed. Combine with ½ cup to 1 cup of champagne vinegar (to taste) and stir.
- Green tea syrup: Fill a tea infuser with 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons of Gyokuro tea. Warm 1 cup of water to just under boiling. Gyokuro tea steeps at a lower temperature and water that is too hot will result in bitter tea. Steep for 90 seconds. Remove tea, add a 1/2 cup of sugar and stir until sugar is absorbed.
- Cocktail: In a shaker, combine 2 oz. of Amontillado sherry (Palo Cortado also works) with 1 1/2 oz. of raspberry shrub and 1/2 oz. of green tea syrup. Fill with ice and shake for 20 seconds. Pour into Collins glass, add ice and top with soda water. Garnish with 1 or 3 fresh raspberries.
Allison Rizzolo improves democratic problem solving by day and moonlights as a bartender, Spanish teacher and casual photographer. You can follow her on Twitter and read more about her libation-related adventures at her blog, Veni Bevi Vici.