Local Bartender Seduced by Exotic Ingredient

If you have been paying attention... then you are well aware of my opinion that the bar follows the kitchen. When the kitchen is churning out fake-food TV dinners, the bar gets fake grenadine and sour mix. When the kitchen gets interested in old-school delicacies like foie gras, the bar gets the Classic Cocktail Revival. When the kitchen goes futuristic with molecular mixology, well, you get the point.

The thing I'm getting at today is the globalization of the American palate. Of course we all like to support local growers and producers; freshness and a smaller carbon footprint are undeniably good things. That aside, the simple fact is: unusual ingredients fire the imagination and seduce the palate. It is, then, only a matter of time until that same exotic ingredient finds its way into cocktails.

If you're following my mixology, you know I'm on an exploration of savoriness in cocktails as part of a larger interest in proper balance. There are a small number of basic flavors we taste and so many more we perceive through a combination of taste and smell that the possibilities to create something new and interesting seem endless.

The latest thing to capture my fancy caught my eye in the market for two reasons: its own exotic cachet and the technology of its delivery. It was Lemongrass, and it came in a tube -- like toothpaste, for heaven's sake! I was immediately drawn to its space-age packaging and my curiosity was piqued by the mental image of tropical Asia, warm humid days and sweet breezy nights. On a whim I put it in my basket and brought it into the Lab.

I do not pretend to have invented Lemongrass, and certainly most of you have tasted it in soups and curries. It is reported to have been distilled as early as the 1700's and has been widely used, medicinally, much longer than that. It has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, and can treat digestive distress.

As a cocktail ingredient, Lemongrass is in fine company, along with other originally-medicinal ingredients like bitters, tonic or absinthe.
Its reputation and scent gave it gravitas, and I set to experimenting. I came up with the following options, the first of which is pictured at right. The Madison Maid is made with mostly-local ingredients, and its parent category, the Maid, is a modern classification that refers to drinks made with cucumber, citrus and mint.

The Madison Maid
1.25 oz. Cane and Abe Rum
1 oz. Quince and Apple Lime and Cucumber Syrup
.125 Tbl. Gourmet Garden Lemongrass paste
8 Mint leaves

Shake all ingredients with ice, vigorously, for a slow count of ten. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Spanked Mint sprig garnish.

The East India Company
1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
.5 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
.25 tsp. Gourmet Gardens Lemongrass paste
1 Sprig Cilantro, about 10 leaves
Tonic water

Combine the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake, vigorously, for a slow count of ten. Strain over fresh ice in a tumbler and top with tonic water. Stir gently to combine and garnish with a lemon twist.
 

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