A Blueberry Smash in the Moonlight & Cocktail Gardening Gone Wild . . .

July 27th, 2013 § Comments Off on A Blueberry Smash in the Moonlight & Cocktail Gardening Gone Wild . . . § permalink

Blueberry Smash - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Icy, Cool, Blueberry Smash

Have you heard? Cocktail gardening is all the rage these days. Of course, mixing drinks from fresh-picked ingredients has been popular with gardeners for as long as booze and backyards have been around, but it always seems to take mainstream media awhile to catch up, now doesn’t it? Strictly speaking, I’ve never planted a cocktail garden, but I’ll make a drink out of pretty much anything in my potager, or the surrounding forest for that matter. And why not? Just about anything edible —wild or cultivated— can go into a cocktail recipe: cucumber for a Porch Swing/Pimm’s Cup, mint for Mojitos and Juleps, berries, rhubarb, melon and stone fruit for Smashes, Daiquiris and Mimosas, chile peppers and citrus for Margaritas, celery and tomatoes for Bloody Marys, edible flowers for pretty much anything, and the list goes on and on. If it’s growing in your kitchen garden, it’s fair game. But if you’re foraging, just be 100% certain that you know what you’ve gathered in that basket!

Blueberries at Last - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com To Extend the Harvest and Provide Good Pollination, I Grow Three Blueberry Varieties in My Garden: BlueRay, Northland and Jersey. Read More About Blueberry Cultivation Here.

picking blueberries in the garden - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Early Morning Blueberry Picking

blueberries from the garden Turns into a Hot Afternoon Dilemma. Shall I Turn on the Oven to Bake a Pie? Nah…

In high summer —when ripe berries and fresh herbs are plentiful— I love to take in sunset or moonrise on the terrace with an ice cold Cuban Mint Julep, fresh Strawberry-Mint Mojito, Raspberry Daiquiri or Blueberry Smash. At the moment, blueberries are particularly plentiful in my garden —despite the efforts of four local black bear— and when it’s too hot to bake a pie or muffins, I’ll take my blueberries with a bit of mint from the herb garden, fresh squeezed lemon/lime juice, vodka or white rum, a hint of St. Germain, crushed ice and a splash of seltzer, thank you very much!

Unknown The Drunken Botanist, by Amy Stewart

Looking for a little inspiration to help liven up the home bar? Author, gardener and cocktail-lover, Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist is a fine, educational read —as well as cocktail gardening and recipe resource— for the horticultural enthusiast who enjoys the occasional homegrown and hand-crafted drink (or two). Curious about the botanical origins of gin and vodka? Want to learn more about the relationships between the various grains, vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers? Wondering about how to play them against or with one another in a cocktail shaker? Well then, pull up a bar stool. Get ready to kick back a glass or two, and chase it with several chapters of cocktail gardening inspiration. And I have just the drink to whet your whistle . . .

Blueberry Smash Ingredients - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com How ‘Bout an Ice Cold Blueberry Smash . . .

Blueberry Smashes on the Terrace - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Now That’s More Like It. Now, Cue Up the Moon . . .

The Blueberry Smash

Ingredients for one cocktail*

1 1/2 oz of Vodka (or White Rum)

1/2 oz St. Germain or Cointreau (and/or 1/2 oz simple syrup)

1/4 cup Fresh Blueberries

Juice of 1/4 Lemon or 1/2 Lime (or a mix of the two)

Slices of Lemon or Lime for garnish

1/8 cup Fresh Mint Leaves, loosely packed, plus a sprig for garnish

Chilled Seltzer Water (optional, for a long version)

Crushed Ice

Method

Reserve a few mint leaves and berries for garnish and place the remaining amount in a cocktail shaker cup and smash with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon until the blueberries are pulpy and the mint leaves are crushed. Fill the cup near to the top with ice. Add citrus juice (and if you like it sweet, optional simple syrup) and spirits and place the cover on your cup. Shake, shake, shake until well mixed. Set aside. Place a couple of the reserved mint leaves at the bottom of a highball or goblet and crush them with a muddler. Fill the glass with ice. Strain the mixture into the glass and, if you prefer a longer, less-potent tasting drink, top off with chilled seltzer. Add a few fresh blueberries, a sprig of mint and/or lemon/lime slices, then serve. This recipe may be adapted and modified in a variety of ways for various berry/herb/citrus combinations**.

Cheers!

*For pitcher sized portions of this cocktail, see John Derian’s version at Bon Appetit, here.

**Find more of my favorite libations in a collection of archived cocktail posts, here.

**For more garden-fresh cocktails as well as recipes for homemade bitters, simple syrups and a shot of good wit, check out Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist Blog, here.

Thunder Moonrise through Halesia tetraptera - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Blueberry Blue Sky & Moonlight, through the Carolina Silverbell Leaves (Halesia tetraptera)

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/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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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)

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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