Let's explore SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION once again as we (that is, I) attempt to create a new cocktail.
As is so often the case in Making the Thing That Is Not, I find myself both STEALING FROM THE BEST and paying attention to ACCIDENT.
Hold those thoughts.
For Christmas, my Lovely First Wife gave me Regarding Cocktails, by the late Sasha Petraska, founder of several groundbreaking cocktail establishments in NYC. This is a book that you need if you care at all about cocktails. If you don't care about cocktails... well, I shall restrict myself to a heavy sigh.
In Regarding Cocktails, two of the recipes that looked interested called for Violette Syrup, and there was a recipe. After considering how foolish it would be to order the violet syrup required to make it, I ordered the violet syrup.
One of the cocktails, the Deep Blue Sea, was OK, but the other, The Water Lily, was quite fine.
It got me to thinking how I might use the syrup in my own concoctions. It's tricky, because the violet flavor is very strong, and it's not to everyone's taste.
As luck (aka ACCIDENT) would have it, I had picked up a bottle of Suze somewhere because it kept showing up in recipes. It's a bitter aperitif made from gentian, and like the violet syrup it comes in a bottle large enough that my son will probably inherit it.
It occurred to me that perhaps the two might blend—floral kinds of tastes, and all that. I began experimenting.
First I put an equal amount (1 Tbsp) of each in my little beaker and sipped it. Not bad. Very strong flavors, but then you work with that.
I tried it with gin first, and that didn't quite work.
I went darker with a bourbon, and that wasn't bad, but it wasn't wow. I experimented with a spoonful of pure violet syrup, which sank to the bottom and was quite lovely, but bourbon did not seem to be the natural match.
A quick digression...
I attended a cocktail class last week at the marvelous establishment of 18•21 Bitters at Ponce City Market in Atlanta and came away inspired. I also came away with an armload of bitters, shrubs, and a tonic. Hey, can I help it if they make stuff I like?
(Our instructor, Kristin, is one of the owner/founders of 18•21 Bitters, and she was a delight. She is also a kindred spirit: she prefers "boozy" cocktails, bitter cocktails, and she is a glassware-aholic.)
With the above concoctions, I used 18•21's Hibiscus Bitters, in keeping with the floral theme, but on the whole it was not amazing.
I considered going with rye (and I may yet), but then my eye fell on the decanter of brandy.
So here's what I have ended up with.
This is 1.5 oz brandy, 1 oz Violette Syrup (recipe below), and .5 oz Suze. It has a dash of 18•21's Havana & Hide Bitters (yes, that's tobacco and leather aromas/flavors), and a lemon peel expressed over the surface. The finishing touch is 4-5 drops of the bitters on the surface for that lovely, lovely aroma.
It's not bad. You first get the aroma of the leather/tobacco and the lemon, then the sweetness and violet flavor, with a strong bitter finish from the Suze. The brandy tends to be a neutral vehicle for all of the above. I don't know that I would order one (or at least order a second one), but I think it has potential.
More work is required, as we Lichtenbergians say. I'll probably try cutting back on the Violette Syrup; the violet is very strong.
update: I wrote this on Monday and scheduled it for today, since I'm on the road today, but (on Tuesday) I've come closer:
- 1.5 oz brandy
- .5 oz Violette Syrup
- .5 oz Suze
- barspoon agave syrup
- 1/2 dash 18•21 Tart Cherry & Saffron Bitters
Stir with ice, pour into coupe, twist lemon peel and toss it in, and finish with 3–4 drops more of the bitters.
Now to name it.
Violette Syrup (Regarding Cocktails, p. 20)
- 2 oz gin
- 1 oz violet syrup, such as Monin Violet Syrup
- 1 oz simple syrup