Local Libations: The Zephyr
By Andrew States
There’s something rudimentarily attractive about a ribollita. Fundamentally a stew, it’s a dish of peasant origins based around leftover food from the previous day. With that ethos in mind, this week I decided to focus my relay on the spirit of the dish rather than on an individual ingredient. Usually I’ll scour liquor stores or the market in search of local, sustainable products for my posts, always buying new stuff to create with, but the other side of socially conscious consumption is reuse. Granted, it doesn’t get as much airplay as it used to, it doesn’t sound as fashionable as “organic,” but it’s equally, if not more, important. Don’t buy new stuff so that new stuff has to keep being made, find a use for that which you already possess. Just like a stew.
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Several weeks ago I’d bought a bottle off Bootlegger Vodka that had yet to be completely exsanguinated and there it sat, chilling in my freezer. Beside it were the remnants of a bottle of Breukelen Gin you might remember from a couple of previous posts. Both local products, both eminently drinkable on their own. I started daydreaming about mixing the two. This may sound frightening to some, but it’s a common practice in a cocktail called a Vesper, though not in the portions I’ve decided on. With that classic as my starting point I decided to add another couple of ingredients and see what would shake out. Where the Vesper uses Lillet Blanc, I opted to substitute Dolin Blanc – a bottle of which I received from this website’s own Sarah Maine. Dolin Blanc, like Lillet Blanc, is a French fortified wine so, had I stopped there, I would essentially have an ever-so-slight variation on a Vesper. I wanted to try something different though, to add my own touch. Since before the holidays I’d been distilling an anise liqueur to no specific purpose and I’d been reading about how liberally pre-prohibition era bartenders used Absinthe in their concoctions. It’s a strong liquorish flavor, so it would have to be used sparingly. With the addition of a twist of lemon, I was finished. Like Marc’s home-spun Tuscan stew, I threw some old ingredients together in a new way to what I found to be pleasant effect.
Making such a boozy cocktail, I decided to keep the portions down. Martini type drinks are meant to be quaffed cold so they ought to be small enough to drink quickly. The modern practice of placing a vat of sugared, lacerated fruit juice and a little vodka in front of a gaping customer is unappealing to me so I measured out a 2 oz drink which, though it doesn’t sound like much, is plenty. It’s a quick, refreshing and effective little cocktail made with a mind to using up what’s on hand. In a fit of optimism I’ve named it after the Greek god of the western wind, the hopeful harbinger of light spring and summer breezes. I present to you The Zephyr. Enjoy.
Tools: Ounce measurement, mixing glass, spoon, strainer, knife
- 3/4 oz. Bootlegger vodka
- 3/4 oz. Breuklelen Gin
- 1/2 oz. Dolin Blanc vermouth
- Rinse of anise liqueur (see recipe, below)
- lemon peel
- Pour a little of the anise liqueur into your mixing glass and swirl it around so that it coats the inside. Discard anise rinse.
- Pour ¾ oz of vodka into mixing glass.
- Pour ¾ oz of gin into mixing glass.
- Add ½ oz of vermouth.
- Add ice to mixing glass and stir until mixture is cold.
- Strain mixture into chilled cocktail glass.
- Add a twist of lemon and drink.
Prep time: 2 weeks
Tools: Empty bottle, cheesecloth, pot
- 2/3 Tbs crushed star anise
- 2 1/4 cups vodka or other grain-neutral spirit
- 3/4 cup simple syrup
- In an empty bottle, steep 2/3 tablespoons of crush star anise in 2 Â¼ cups of vodka or grain neutral spirits for two weeks. Filter and add Â¾ cup of simple syrup to mixture.