Is There a Cure for Spring Fever? How About a Flirty Little Cocktail to Celebrate the Vernal Equinox…

March 20th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

The Strawberry Flirt – A Spring-Fling Cocktail to Celebrate the Vernal Equinox

Spring is a flirtatious season. A coquettish, unpredictable lover. We long for her, but she makes us wait. She takes her time, dropping hints; kissing flower buds with her pouty lips and sending promises on winged messengers. When she finally arrives she often comes on strong, and then she suddenly disappears, giving us the cold shoulder for weeks. In spite of her youth, she is practiced in the art of seduction. But we love her anyway. In fact, we love her all the more I think, because of her indecisive ways.

Flirtation can be fun -in fact I rather like it- especially in the garden. So to celebrate the arrival of Spring today, I have chosen a decidedly insouciant cocktail; using fresh herbs from my windowsill garden. A hint of sophisticated mint, a kiss of strawberry sweetness clipped by lime, a rumor of racy hearted rum, and a bit of champagne-bubble charm: This Strawberry Flirt is all about anticipating the delightful season to come.

Oh Spring, how you give me FEVER. So, go ahead – put your Peggy Lee on the play list and kick back in the warm sunshine. Welcome the first day of Spring with a tasty Strawberry Flirt. But for heaven’s sake, do try to be casual about it -don’t be too eager to please- or she will up and change her mind again!

The Strawberry Flirt – A Spring-Fling Cocktail

( Inspiration: Salvatore Calabrese and Maria Hunt )

Ingredients (makes one cocktail):

5    Organic Strawberries (fresh, small berries tend to have best flavor)

10  Organic Peppermint Leaves

1    Ounce lime syrup*

1    Ounce white Puerto Rican rum**

Dry Prosecco, sparkling wine or champagne**

Directions:

Wash strawberries, remove stems and slice. Place in a chilled, round wine glass or goblet or with 10 mint leaves and muddle. Add 1 ounce of homemade lime syrup, (see recipe below), and 1 ounce of white rum. Mix. Fill the glass to near full with cracked, (but not crushed), ice. Add Prosecco to top-off the glass and gently stir. Garnish with a wedge of strawberry and/or a sprig of fresh mint.

*Lime syrup (will keep in a refrigerator for several weeks in a sealed bottle)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

Combine both ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

** A non-alcoholic version of this drink can be easily made by substituting sparkling water in place of the wine. Artificial rum flavoring made also be added if you so desire.

The Strawberry Flirt

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For more delightful springtime libations, check out these lovely books:

Denise Gee’s Southern Cocktails

Maria Hunt’s – The Bubbly Bar

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Article and photographs copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved. All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through links here. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Shop at SpringHillNursery.com to save $25 on a $50 order!

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Valentine’s Day Fun with Flowers: Introducing The Wild Hibiscus Royale…

February 3rd, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

I’m a big fan of Valentine’s Day. This probably comes as no surprise. Of course I love any celebration that involves flowers, food and drink. But there is something special about a holiday that exists just to say ‘I love you’. And although we tend to think of romance and candlelit dinners on Valentine’s Day, it’s also a nice time to tell your friends that you love them too. Remember way back when you made valentines for all your classmates? Or maybe you even baked special cookies and gave them away for a smile? Well you can still do that now if you want to, you know. Valentines Day is just plain fun.

And speaking of fun, awhile back my friend Mel gave me a jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers as a gift. She’s so thoughtful, isn’t she?  Deep red, gorgeous, edible, floating flowers… now doesn’t that sound exactly like something I would like? Of course. And although these lovely little hibiscus flowers and their syrup can be used in myriad ways, (as a garnish, in dessert dishes or drinks), Mel knew that I would have to pop one in a glass of champagne, creating what is known as a Wild Hibiscus Royale. But the blossoms and their sweet nectar also play a starring role in several other cocktails, including the Hibiscus Mojito, Sugar Daddy, Hi-Bellini, Hibiscus Daiquiri, and the soon-to-be tried Adam & Eve Martini.

I’d been saving my jar of hibiscus for a special occasion, but over the weekend I realized that if these floating flowers are as good as they look, then I must let you know about them in time for Valentine’s Day. I mean, what kind of person would I be if I kept this all to myself ? So here you have the visual evidence – gorgeous. And when the sweet hibiscus flowers and syrup are combined with a hint of mint and a whiff of rosewater, they blend perfectly with fizzy, dry brut champagne. But I must warn you, whatever you do, don’t put this syrup in a sweet bubbly, because that would ruin it – stick to a dry sparkling wine or prosecco.

Sure, you could buy regular old flowers. But why not float an exotic blossom in a sparkling glass of bubbles? I think ruby red Hibiscus Flowers make the perfect Valentine’s drink. Have a little fun. You know that I want you to…

Wild Hibiscus Royale


One Wild Hibiscus Flower* per glass

1/4 oz natural rose water, (available in most grocery spice aisles)

2/3 oz Wild Hibiscus Flower* syrup

2     sprigs fresh mint per glass, (one to muddle, one for garnish)

Brut champagne, dry sparkling wine or prosecco

In a champagne flute, muddle one sprig of mint to release oils. Remove crushed leaves from the glass. Add rosewater and place one Wild Hibiscus flower at the bottom of glass, carefully standing upright. Slowly pour champagne into the glass, filling 2/3 of the glass. Top with Wild Hibiscus syrup and a sprig of fresh mint.

*Wild Hibiscus Flowers ($10 for an 8.8 0z jar at Amazon.com), are available online, or through specialty retailers. Wild Hibiscus company is based in Australia and the hibiscus are hand picked on sustainable farms. Each 8.8 oz jar contains approximately 11 hibiscus flowers, and they may be used in a wide variety of cocktails, non-alcholic drinks and desserts. You can also float the flowers in glasses of sparkling water, ginger ale or whatever fizzy beverage strikes your fancy, for a non-alcoholic version of the Wild Hibiscus Royale.

Muddle mint leaves in a champagne flute to release oils, then remove the crushed leaves…

Add 1/4 ounce of rose flower water…

Add one flower from a jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup. Stand the flower upright at the bottom of the flute, and fill the glass 2/3 full with dry champagne, sparkling wine or prosecco. Top with 2/3 ounce of flower syrup and a sprig of fresh mint.

Happy Valentine’s Day – Cheers XOXO – Michaela

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Looking for something a little less sweet? Floral tea also makes a lovely Valentine surprise. It’s pretty to watch the dried flowers unfold in the glass teapot and it’s a really easy way to brighten a friend’s day…

Primula Flowering Tea Set with Glass Pot

And then there is the White Flower Farm gift certificate. I always prefer the gift of flowers with roots attached…

20% off White Flower Farm Gift Certificates Over $50 for Valentine’s Day! Use Code AS309. Offer valid 1/30/10 to 2/14/10
Click Here!

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not republish or post photographs or text excerpts without permission. Inspired by something you see here? Well that’s nice! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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A Beautiful and Symbolic Cocktail to Celebrate the Winter Solstice and Enjoy Throughout the Holiday Season…

December 20th, 2009 § 10 comments § permalink

The Persephone – or Lava Lamp by Maria Hunt…

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My, oh my – where has the year gone? Here we are on the eve of the Winter Solstice, with 2010 right around the corner. I don’t know about you, but for me this year has been a complete whirl-wind. Looking back at the months gone by, I am truly grateful to have so many wonderful, familiar people in my life and so many beautiful new faces and memories. It’s been a tough year for many, with lost jobs and personal struggles, but there have been many joyful moments and happy occasions as well. This year has been a particularly special one for my family, as my delightfully sweet nephew Morgan arrived this past August. There is much to celebrate! I am also thankful to have all of you in my life. Your wonderful comments and lovely emails have brightened my life and propelled me forward. I thank you from the deepest part of my heart. And in this season of celebratory giving, I have a special little gift in mind to share with all of you…

I have to tell you that I have been barely able to contain myself for the past few weeks, eagerly anticipating the moment when I would share this special Winter Solstice cocktail. Yes I know, I am as silly as a little kid – it’s true. But this really is the perfect drink to celebrate the season. Why, why, why – You ask? Well, it’s because this champagne cocktail contains three seeds from the pomegranate, the mythical fruit of Greek legend, explaining the seasons. But before I get into the story, let me tell you the most exciting thing about this drink: when pomegranate seeds are dropped into a glass of champagne and pomegranate liqueur, they become suspended by bubbles rising in the sparkling wine. They float up and down; lifting, dipping and swaying, as if dancing to music. How festive is that? I love watching the ruby red seeds float around like lively party-goers in my champagne flute, and I know you are going to get a kick out of it too. Of course you know this drink deserves center stage at your next holiday party.

I had a champagne-pomegranate seed cocktail a long time ago, and when I saw it, I dubbed it The Persephone. I still can’t believe that I forgot all about it until I recently discovered a new spin on the recipe in Maria Hunt’s fantastic cocktail book, The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion. Maria adds pomegranate liqueur instead of juice to the basic recipe and she calls this drink The Lava Lamp – (it’s fanatastic, as are all of her recipes, and it does bear a striking resemblance to that retro-fab design). But for the holidays, I prefer to go back to my old moniker, The Persephone, (I sure hope Maria won’t mind), and here’s why…

(*if you are as impatient as I am, you can scroll down to the recipe below and come back for the story later…)

According to Greek myth, Winter is explained by the grieving of Demeter, goddess of earth, fertility and the seasons. Many, many years ago, Demeter lived an idyllic life with her beautiful daughter Persephone, child of her union with the highest god, Zeus. Their days were spent tending to earth’s fertility, and their long, lovely evenings were passed enjoying the harvest and song. Then, one day Persephone went out into the fields to pick flowers with a group of nymphs. Suddenly, the earth cracked open, hissing and shaking them to the ground. Hades, god of the underworld, had been observing Persephone from the shadows, and in a moment of jealous desire, he reached out and dragged her beneath the soil into his kingdom of death – claiming her as his bride. Unaware that her child was abducted, (swept beneath the earth by Hades), Demeter desperately wandered the forests and fields for months. While searching for her beloved daughter, the goddess of fertility unintentionally allowed the earth go to waste. Finally Helios, the sun god, found the courage to tell Demeter that he saw her daughter taken – snatched by the dark king of the underworld.

With the crops going to ruin, and an earth trapped in endless winter, Zeus finally stepped in and demanded that Hades return Persephone to her mother. Hades agreed to return her, but with the stipulation that she must fast, along with the suffering earth, during her time in the underworld. Persephone dutifully abided by the rules, in spite of the great temptations placed before her by devious Hades. However, just before she is to be released, Persephone is tricked into eating a handful of pomegranate seeds by the crafty Hades. After starving for months in the underworld, the beautiful, plump fruit proved irresistible. Persephone let three pomegranate seeds pass her lips.

When our ill-fated heroine finally returned to her mother, there was a small catch. On the longest, darkest night of every year, The Winter Solstice, Persephone returns to her Hades in the underworld, where she remains for three months, (one for each seed), until she is allowed to return to her mother on the Vernal Equinox – Spring. Every year when Persephone departs, Demeter goes into mourning. The leaves begin to fall from the trees in late autumn as her melancholy mood returns. Then, when her daughter inevitably departs, the earth turns cold and dormant until Persephone returns again…

Juicy, Ruby-Red Pomegranate Seeds…

The Pomegranate, (Punica granatum), also known as the Chinese apple or the “many-grained apple”, is believed to have evolved in the Middle East, near modern Iran. Some believe that this, not the common apple, is the fabled fruit of The Garden of Eden. The pomegranate has been cultivated by mankind since the very beginning of recorded history. In the United States, pomegranates were introduced to California by Spanish settlers in the late 1700’s. Today the pomegranate tree is grown throughout the world in dry, warm climates similar to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions where it was originally found. In the U.S. it is commonly raised in California, Arizona and other southwestern states.

If you have never tried this fruit, you don’t know what you are missing! Pomegranates are delicious, and they are used in many dishes and drinks in cultures throughout the world. The juice of the pomegranate is high in vitamins and anti-oxidant properties, and it can be enjoyed fresh or cooked to create delicious sauces. Seeds of the pomegranate, encased in waxy chambers of pith, can be eaten straight from the fruit, tossed in salads, or used in a wide variety of recipes…

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The Persephone

From Maria Hunt’s Lava Lamp recipe found in : The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion

Ingredients to make one Persephone/Lava Lamp cocktail

1 ounce of pomegranate liqueur or 3 tablespoons of pomegranate juice

3 pomegranate seeds (fewer for optimists or more if you are pessimistic)

5 ounces of brut champagne or dry, sparking wine*

A tall champagne flute

Follow instructions below…

Three Symbolic Pomegranate Seeds, Placed in a Tall Champagne Flute…

To make this delicious and festive cocktail, begin by selecting a dark red pomegranate, (Punica granatum) from the market, (deep red, leathery skin is an indicator of ripeness). Tear open the leathery skin and remove the juicy red seeds from the pith. Opening the pomegranate may require a bit of effort. This is a fun-messy job, so get near a sink and towels – it helps to begin with a sharp knife. Once you get through the tough skin, simply rip the shell open.

Drop three seeds into the bottom of a tall champagne flute. Add 1 ounce of pomegranate liqueur or 3 tablespoons of pure pomegranate juice. Fill the glass with 5 ounces of dry, sparkling wine or brut champagne.

Enjoy watching as the pomegranate seeds rise and fall delightfully in the bubbles !

* Let youngsters, and those unable to drink alcoholic beverages, in on the fun by using non-alcoholic, sparkling white grape juice or any other bubbly substitute…

Happy Holidays Everyone – Cheers  !

When sparkling wine is added to the flute, the pomegranate seeds are lifted by the bubbles, rising and falling in the glass – Magic !

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardner’s Eden. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Grey and Chilly? Got the Autumn Blues? Spice Up Your Afternoon with Hot Mulled Apple Cider, Or Spike It Up Come Evening If You Choose …

November 12th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

A cup of hot, mulled apple cider, garnished with a stick of cinnamon and a slice of orange, studded with fragrant clove…

It’s the middle of November now, and there’s a sharp nip in the air by late afternoon. The sky is often streaked with slate colored clouds, and the sun, when it makes an appearance, slips away early on the western horizon. Naked trees shiver in the wind as I huddle inside my downy jacket, tending to late autumn chores in the garden. I can feel Winter’s icy breath as she whispers, “prepare“…

Well, hold back solemn Winter – I am still scrambling to get things done. The firewood is only half stacked and the Secret Garden still needs mulching. I have orchards to plan and stumps to pull and ditches to clear in the driveway. Hold back stark friend, there are still Autumn moments to savor. There are wild berry branches to gather and pine cones to pick up. The late auburn beauty of November still paints the forest, and bonfires warm our chilly toes as we gaze upon inky skies filled with stars…

Pause now. Revel in the pleasures of this season before we rush to the next.

Yesterday, I stole a quiet moment with Autumn on the back terrace. As I sipped my spicy, mulled cider and savored the warm patch of sunlight, I knew I must share the recipe with all of you here. Simmer a cup or a pot of apple cider on the stove and breathe in the fragrance. Steep rich mulling spices in your drink and enjoy the aroma of the season. Come night-fall, the rum-spiked version of this classic recipe makes for a memorable evening beside a crackling wood stove…

Slow down for a spell and drink up the last drops of Autumn while you can…

mulling spices ingredients and cider in sun horizontalMulling Spices and Heirloom Apple Cider from Scott Farm, Vermont…

Hot Mulled Cider

And Mulling Spice Recipe for Mulled Wine or Hot Spiked Cider

(makes sachets for 4 big, spicy mugs, or 1 large bag for a 1/2 gallon of cider. Divide evenly for single servings, or multiply evenly for larger gatherings)

8 whole cardamon pods, split open

8 whole cloves, (plus extra for orange-garnish)

8 whole cinnamon sticks, (plus more for garnishing each cup)

4 teaspoons freshly ground allspice

4 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg

4 teaspoons fresh grated orange peel

1 orange, cut into slices for garnish

4 muslin or cheesecloth bags for 4 large mugs or 1 large bag for 1 quart pot of cider

1/2 gallon of fresh heirloom apple cider, (I bought mine from local Scott Farm)

Crack open cardamon pods and and muddle lightly with the back of a wooden spoon or pestle. Place all spices in a large muslin or cheesecloth bag, or evenly divide all spices into four bags.* Tie the bag tightly and toss into a large pot with 1/2 gallon of fresh cider. For single servings, use a small sauce pot. Turn on the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Simmer on low – DO NOT BOIL. In the meantime, create one orange slice garnish per serving, (or to float in serving bowl), by imbedding several cloves in each slice. Place extra cinnamon sticks, (one per serving), in each cup. Remove mulled cider from heat and extract the spice sack. Pour cider into cups or bowl and garnish with orange/clove slices. Serve hot.

*This recipe is a heady mix. For a more subtle blend, increase cider ratio or reduce spice quantities to taste. I like a lot of spice in my life…

Hot Spiked Cider

After simmering the 1/2 gallon of cider and spices for 15 minutes, add 1 1/2 cups of golden Puerto Rican rum to the pot. Simmer for 5 more minutes and continue to prepare as above.

Mulled Red Wine

This is also an excellent spice recipe for mulled red wine. Choose an inexpensive, dry red wine, (such as a Cabernet Sauvignon). Ratio should be approximately the same: 1/2 gallon of wine per bag of mulling spices.

Cheers!

Mulle Cider cinnamon stick, cardamon, cloves

Mulled Cider grated orange peel

Mulled Cider spice sack filled and tied

Photography and Text ⓒ 2009, Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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A Vintage Rose Cocktail to Celebrate The Last Day of Summer…

September 20th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Vintage Rose Cocktail from The Bubbly Girl – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

We may be kissing Summer a sweet goodbye on Tuesday, but you didn’t think I would let her slip away for the year without a little celebration, now did you?  Of course not. She is far too loved to be easily forgotten. As I was strolling around my garden the other evening, dreaming up a suitable send-off for our beloved season, a sweet answer came to me on the breeze: Rosa ‘De Rescht’. Sometimes inspiration strikes like a bolt from the blue. I sprang to action…

If you have been following my journal entries for awhile, you may recall that back in early July I mentioned a new late-night hobby, (devouring food blogs), in my post, “Stop! Put down that hoe, and let’s eat”. Well, as the weeks passed my newfound interest in cooking, and the vibrant online community of foodies, led me to a few intriguing wine blogs. While some of these websites turned out to be bit dry and formal, I recently made a more effervescent discovery. A few weeks ago, I chanced upon Bubbly Girl, a wonderful website and blog written by Maria Hunt. Maria’s lovely book, The Bubbly Bar, is a collection of cocktail recipes made with champagne and sparkling wine. Many of her beautiful and festive drinks use fresh ingredients, including berries, herbs, fruit, and my personal favorite, flowers! While visiting Maria’s blog, I discovered several cocktails calling for rose petals and/or rose water. In fact, her Moonwalk Cocktail, and her signature Love in the Afternoon, (featured on the cover of the book), both contain rose water, among other ingredients. Everything on her website looked delightful, but when I stumbled upon Maria’s recipe for a Vintage Rose Cocktail, I knew I just had to try it. Unfortunately, with autumn’s first frost right around the corner, time was running out. By the time I found this recipe, the last day of summer was less than a week away. In order to share this with you, I had to move quick. So after taste-testing this delicious, rose-bubble potion, (you can not imagine the sacrifices I make for this blog), I wrote Maria a quick email explaining how I thought my readers might appreciate her rose-infused champagne cocktail, and asking permission to reprint her recipe. Maria graciously responded with a warm and generous note, kindly offering to share. What a lovely, talented lady. Thank you Maria!

No doubt, many of you have an ample supply of roses. But it is getting late in the season, and some of you may need to borrow a few petals from a friend, or pay a visit to your local florist in order to make this drink, (carefully read the recipe below for other key ingredients). Fortunately, the antique Damask roses in my garden have decided to provide me with the key ingredient, (petals), by producing a last wave of late-season, heavenly-scented bloom, (remember that bolt from the blue inspiration I mentioned above?). In fact just yesterday, I brought several deep fuchsia rose blossoms up to the table beside my bed in order to revel in their fragrance for a few more nights. I will miss them. After reading Maria’s recipe, it seemed more than appropriate to harvest some fresh petals from this, my Portland Damask, Rosa ‘De Rescht’, in order to create a special cocktail marking the Last Day of Summer, Monday, September 21st, 2009.

I hope you will enjoy the Vintage Rose Cocktail, and beautiful memories of summer, for many years to come…

So Long Sweet Summer. We’ll see you again next year. Cheers!

rose-infused simple syrupHomemade Rose-Lavender infused Simple Syrup – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Vintage Rose Cocktail

From the Bubbly Girl, Maria Hunt

Ingredients (makes one cocktail):


3/4 ounce rose syrup *

4 – 5 ounces chilled sparkling wine or champagne **

lemon twist, (Meyer if possible)

organic rose petals (we used fresh petals from Rosa ‘De Rescht’)

Directions:

Add the rose syrup to a chilled champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine or champagne. Twist the lemon peel over the glass to release the oils and then drop it into the flute. Garnish with fresh, organic rose petals…

Cheers !

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Some additional notes from The Gardner’s Eden:

*You can buy rose syrup at many specialty stores, however we made our own:

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To make rose syrup: mix 1/2 cup of rose flower water, (dilute with water if necessary), with several sprigs of French lavender, and the fresh petals of one organically grown rose, (we used damask Rosa ‘De Rescht’, see cultivar notes below). bring to a quick boil in a small sauce pan, slowly adding 1 cup of sugar. simmer for 5-8 minutes to thicken, (you may add a couple of drops of organic red food coloring if you so desire). remove from heat. Strain through a filter to remove herbs. Allow syrup to cool, or chill in your fridge. Seal in a small bottle and store refrigerated for approximately 2 weeks. (This recipe may be doubled)

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** I also made this drink as a “mock-tail” for a friend. Use a good quality, non-alcoholic sparkling wine to replace the champagne, (available in many specialty stores and online).

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Rosa 'De Rescht' Portland Damask Perpetual:Repeat flush of bloom 3.5'highx 3' wide, pure, intense sweet Damask scent, hardy zone 4 (protected)-8Petals of Rosa ‘De Rescht’, an Antique Portland Damask Rose ⓒ Michaela at TGE

And now, a few notes regarding the source of our chosen ingredient, the petals of Rosa ‘De Rescht’  …

Star of the summer to autumn transition in my entry garden, the scent of Rosa ‘De Rescht’ has stopped many a guest in their tracks. She is classified as a Portland Damask rose, and her tidy growth habit is quite similar to a Gallica. Although her complete history was lost and remains unknown, this antique rose was reintroduced to the west in the mid-1940’s when she was ‘discovered’ by an English woman traveling in Persia, (now modern Iran). The family lines of this mysterious rose have been traced back more than one hundred years, although her exact lineage is unclear. I have always been intrigued by a lady with a bit of a past, haven’t you? Damask roses are known to have some of the finest fragrance in the entire rose genus. The oil and water of the Damask are key ingredients in many fine perfumes and cosmetics. Of course there are many fragrant Damask roses, but to my nose, this one is truly exceptional. As an added bonus, Portland Damasks, (also known as perpetuals), are reliable repeat bloomers. In my garden, Rosa ‘De Rescht’  is in the habit of producing several waves of flower, (especially when I remember to deadhead), pausing just long enough between blooming cycles to make her absence felt. She likes to finish the season with a grand finale, brushing us with a kiss of sweet fragrance on the final days of summer, just before the frost. Rosa ‘De Rescht’ has gorgeous, deep fuchsia buds and a classic, old-fashioned pompon flower. Clearly she has become one of my favorites. Yes, it does help that this rosebush is easy going and reasonably sized, (3.5′ high by 3′ wide), making her a fine addition to the perennial border. And unlike many antique roses, Rosa ‘De Rescht’ still remembers her good breeding and remains very well mannered; she doesn’t sucker, or threaten to encroach upon the rest of the garden. She has dignity. Grace. The foliage and wood of this cultivar has proven relatively disease free, and quite hardy in my garden. Although Rosa ‘De Rescht’  is listed as USDA zones 5-8, in my experience she is much sturdier. I live at the edge of zone 4, (and Ferncliff is an exposed, rugged site), where she has performed very well for the past 5 years without any winter protection at all. I think she is quite happy here, and I am more than delighted to be rewarded with her deliciously fragrant petals…

Rosa 'De Rescht'Rosa ‘De Rescht’, a Portland Damask Rose at Ferncliff ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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~ Vintage Rose Cocktail Recipe, courtesy of The Bubbly Girl, Maria Hunt ~

Maria’s book, (pictured below), would make a lovely gift…

bubbly_bar_cover-largeYou can buy Maria’s book, The Bubbly Bar, by clicking here.

Thank you Maria … Cheers !

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Article and Photographs copyright 2009 – Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (exclusive of noted material and book photo), is the property of  Michaela and The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reproduced, copied or otherwise used without written permission.  All Rights are Reserved. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Liquid Pleasures of the Late Summer Garden: Part Two, How I Came to Know the Cuban Mint Julep…

August 28th, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

Mel’s Cuban Mint Julep/ AKA The Mojito

I simply can not believe this is the last weekend of August. Where has the summer gone? Here in New England the weather pattern has shifted right on cue and the nights are already getting cooler. Geese are gathering on the water. Labor Day weekend and the Harvest Moon are both only a week away. Sigh. Soon it will be autumn.

But wait! Not yet, not yet! Oh Summer, please don’t go so fast. Can’t we find a way to slow it down and squeeze just a little bit more pleasure from this sweetest of seasons? Summer is a time for friends. Go on now, call them out and gather them up. Fluff up your hammock and reposition the lawn chairs. Drag the old cooler and blankets back to the beach. Fire up the grill, mix some drinks and turn up the music. Think of the things and the people that you will miss come winter, and enjoy them while you still can.

Take a favorite summertime cocktail for example. Over the past few years, I have come to associate August with barbeques on patios, visiting seasonal neighbors and the cool, refreshing taste of Cuban Mint Juleps. In fact, hot summer nights and Cuban Mint Juleps have practically become synonymous with grilling and good company around here. And you know, there is a special summer story to my favorite cocktail. Impossible though it may be for me to imagine summer without this delightfully minty drink, I haven’t always known about the Cuban Mint Julep. I owe this great pleasure, among many others, to my good friend Mel.

I met Mel late one summer a few years back, through a mutual acquaintance. This friend-in-common, a great guy named Travis, noted that Mel and I have many shared interests. He mentioned that we might just make good friends. At the time, Mel and her husband Pete had just purchased a house a few towns north of mine, and she was looking for some help with the gardens. So, I went over to check things out. I was taken with the old place immediately, and although it needed work, I thought it was really charming. But as Travis suspected, the thing I liked best was Mel herself. She was straightforward and open, relaxed but steady. She wanted someone to help renovate the old garden, saving as many of the existing plants as possible while creating a new design. I took the job and soon a friendship blossomed between the overgrown shrubs and tangled vines. We spent a lot of time working together the first couple of years. There were plants to move, decisions to make, contractors to hire, rocks to haul and shrubs to prune. And there was weeding to do. There was lots of weeding. You really get to know someone when you work side by side with them for a time. Fortunately, as it turns out, our friend Travis was right. Our personalities were a very good mix.

Late one sultry summer afternoon, after we had been working all day pulling weeds in the hot sun, Mel asked me if I would like something to drink. Then she grabbed a bunch of mint from the garden and disappeared into the kitchen. When she emerged from the vestibule a few minutes later, all rosy cheeks and curls in a 50’s style apron, my friend was holding two frosty glasses filled with ice and a greenish- gold fluid. “What could this be?”, I wondered out loud. “It’s a Cuban Mint Julep”, she replied, handing me a glass. I had never heard of such a thing. But I do love a surprise, and so I sat down beside her and I had myself a drink. Well, Hoo-Wee. That was some cocktail. I must have been muttering in disbelief, because she told me again that it was a Cuban Mint Julep, but I still couldn’t believe my ears. I thought all juleps were made with sticky-sweet syrup and gin, and I am not a fan of gin. In fact I am more of a champagne or summer-sangria kind-of-gal. But this drink was different. It’s actually a lot like a mojito, only more interesting because it’s made with golden rum instead of the traditional white, (far richer and sweeter), and much more fresh peppermint. And Mel makes the old-style Cuban Mint Julep sans the mojito’s sparkling water. I like the taste much better. Sparkling water tends to dilute the delightful flavors of this classic summer cocktail.

And so, as we sipped our drinks in the garden that afternoon, the conversation slowly turned from weeds and flowers to art and chocolate; and from scuba diving to flying; and from quirky rattle-snake shooting relatives to long-lost and better-off-without-’em loves. We laughed and watched the daylight fade to violet over those Cuban Mint Juleps as the twilight settled in. I will never forget that summer night. It was the night we really became friends. I have met some interesting characters and some really good people through my work as a gardener. But this friendship stands out. It is real. Do you know someone you can spend hours with because they are just plain easy to be around?  My friend Mel is like that. She is more than fun, she is good company. She asks great questions and she really listens to your answers. Mel is smart and talented and clever. She is also a great cook – and she makes a fabulous summer cocktail. I am lucky to know her. Some friendships are just meant to be, like hot summer nights and cold drinks.

Here’s to holding on to Summer….

C H E E R S !

mojito muddling mint

Mel’s Cuban Mint Julep


(Makes one cocktail)

2 good size limes, juiced, (plus saved wedges and a slice for garnish)*

2 tsp sugar

1/4 cup of fresh peppermint leaves, more sprigs for garnish

2 oz Excellent quality Puerto Rican Gold Rum

Ice, (cracked to dice size, but not crushed)

*optional: add sparkling water for a traditional mojito

Put the sugar, lime juice and mint leaves at the bottom of a heavy based 6 oz Old-fashioned glass, or 8-10 oz highball if you are adding sparkling water or want more ice.

Muddle with a wooden muddler or handle end of a wooden spoon. It is important to muddle the ingredients thoroughly, in a circular motion, to release the mint oils into the lime juice.

Add 2 oz of rum, toss in a couple of squeezed wedges and stir.

Fill glass with cracked ice and stir again thoroughly.

If using larger glass and adding sparkling water, add water and stir.

Garnish with mint and lime and serve…

* A note on limes: Look for a fresh lime with pale green skin. Limes with dark skin tend to be less juicy. You want at least 1 1/2 -2 oz of fresh, sweet lime juice. Roll the limes between your palm and the counter before slicing in half. And to get the maximum juice, use a hand-juicer.

peppermint close up

Peppermint, (Mentha piperita)

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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