by Advanced Sommelier Jenny Benzie
Summertime is the perfect season to benefit from the bounty of the earth the far away isle of Nantucket has to offer. We have access to fresh eggs, succulent strawberries, delicious sweet corn, and all the heirloom tomatoes you can eat, along with a plethora of fragrant, colorful flowers to adorn any Nantucket home. Sustainable Nantucket is a local organization that aims to cultivate a healthy community by building a more locally-based and self-reliant food system on-island, and to build a healthy economy around this. On Saturday mornings during the summer season, you can visit their Farmer and Artisans Market downtown, which is designed to support and strengthen our traditional industry of agriculture. Vendors include growers, artisans, and prepared food purveyors, and are seasonal or year round residents of Nantucket, with all goods sold grown or produced on the island.
What a great way to stock up on local herbs and produce to use in making some delicious seasonal summertime libations for your next garden party! Whether muddled, infused, or simply snipped for a delicate garnish, fresh herbs make a wonderful addition to summer cocktails. Here are a few recipes containing local ingredients that are simple to prepare with no artificial additives and make you feel healthy as you imbibe them.
YOUR GARDEN-FRESH INGREDIENTS
Your backyard garden is in full bloom and you have more cucumbers than you know what to do with. The LILLET-BASIL COCKTAIL is a creative way to use those cukes, along with some freshly picked basil from the pots on your porch. Lillet Blanc, a white wine-based aperitif that hails from the Bordeaux region of France, is a brilliant cocktail ingredient simply with a splash of soda or as a mixer for any type of citrus-based drink. In this easy-to-make refresher, delicate citrus flavors are played up well against the contrast with its herbal pairing and garden fresh garnish. Place ice, 4 ounces Lillet, 1 ounce small-batch Monkey 47 Gin, two Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice and ¼ C fresh local basil leaves into a shaker. Shake well. Fill a tall glass with ice and strain mixture into the glass. Add a splash of tonic water, garnish with a cucumber spear and basil springs. Garden salad in a glass!
Nantucket’s well-known PUMPKIN POND FARM offers a large selection of mint varieties to spice up any cocktail creation. Not just for tea anymore, the cool, slightly astringent flavors of mint warm up well to the luscious flavors of fruit and rich warmth of a rush of alcohol. Grab more than a handful of the minty-est fresh mint available as it is the garnish of choice for the British inspired drink called PIMM’S CUP made with Pimm’s Cup No. 1 liqueur. Pimm’s has a dark brown color with a reddish tint, and tastes subtly of spice and citrus. The recipe calls for this liqueur topped with sparkling lemonade (or substitute ginger ale), and generously garnished with an abundance of fresh fruit (think sangria here with apples, cucumbers, oranges, strawberries, lemons) and mint—lots of mint! This is considered the perfect summer long drink after winning the lawn match of tennis, crushing it at croquet, or at your summer garden soirée. It’s Pimm’s o’Clock!
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
Pick your own pint of succulent strawberries at MOORS END FARM off Polpis Road. You will need plenty for your STRAWBERRY-TARRAGON SMASH. To prep for the cocktail, you will need to slice a handful of fresh strawberries and cut a lime into wedges, as well as make a tarragon simple syrup. To make the tarragon simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and hot water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add a small bunch of tarragon leaves to steep (about 10 minutes). Strain before using and store in a glass jar until use. Prepare the cocktail by adding the sliced strawberries and lime wedges into the bottom of an ice-filled shaker. Use the end of a wooden spoon to muddle the ingredients. Add juice of one lime, four ounces of Keel Vodka, and a splash of tarragon simple syrup and fill again with ice. Shake and pour into ice filled highball glasses. Finish the drink with a colorful garnish of a strawberry slice, lime wedge, and sprig of tarragon. If you prefer, add a little spritz of club soda, sparkling water or sparkling wine (our favorite option!). While this recipe is a little more labor intensive, the result of the sweet fruit, earthy herb, not-so-boozy alcohol and refreshing topper combine to make summer living easy!
A SWEET ADDITION TO ANY DRINK
The bee’s golden nectar – honey – is an all-purpose miracle ingredient behind any bar. It’s sweet enough to substitute for sugar when making simple syrup (see recipe above), yet complex enough to add depth of flavor to citrus drinks and cool down heat in spicy concoctions. David Berry of NANTUCKET HONEYBEE CO. produces amazing, locally sourced raw honey that is worth adding to your bar or pantry staples. THE BEE’S KNEES is easy and simple, a not-so complicated beverage quick to raise to your lips. Combine 2 ounces Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin (made in Vermont with Juniper and Raw Honey) with ½ ounce lemon juice, and ¾ ounce honey syrup (made by heating equal parts honey and hot water similar to a simple syrup) in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon. For a slight variation of the theme, add a dash of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters and garnish with an orange. The drink your guests will all be buzzing about!
To learn more about having your own garden plot on Nantucket, what vendors are featured each week at the Farmer and Artisans market or to buy tickets for Sustainable Nantucket’s 9th Annual Farm Fresh Feast on July 25, contact Sustainable Nantucket at sustainablenantucket.org or visit their booth downtown on Saturday morning. Here’s raising a garden fresh glass to you!