Cocktail Chatter - The Scarborough Fair
It’s very loud in the city – much louder than any Fire Island sound system blasting the recent archaeological discovery, Barbra Streisand. But I’ve kept a bit of my summer garden in preserved form, and it’s literally a tonic.
Just before we left the beach house, I was seized with an overwhelming need to take something with me – something to get me through the tough, cold northeast winter. Dan had already put his suitcase outside the gate when, stricken with this impulse, I dropped my stuff, sprinted to the container garden in the back, and ripped out bunches of herbs. “What are you doing?” said Dan when I reappeared carrying two fistfuls of aromatics. “What are you doing?” I replied as I stuffed them into my backpack. He answered on cue: “What are you doing?!” It’s a routine we do.
“I don’t know,” I said as I picked up my backpack. “It’s part of a Native-American harvest ritual.” “Don’t be racist,” Dan scolded. We distracted ourselves by insulting each other as we walked to the ferry.
By the time we got home, the herbs looked pretty sad, so to refresh them I wrapped them in a wet towel and stuck them in the refrigerator. I decided to make an herbal infusion, so the next morning, I bought a fifth of Absolut.
After doing some cursory Internet research, I decided I knew better. (I’m obnoxious.) So I washed the ragged bouquets, dried them in a salad spinner, and laid them out on the counter. I hadn’t planned this desperate harvest at all; the herbs I’d blindly grabbed at twilight consisted of sage, thyme, tarragon, lovage, parsley and rosemary. The infusion ingredients instantly chose themselves: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Don’t you just love that song? I put the iPod on its little donut and set it to my Paul Simon playlist, then gently bruised the herbs to release their oils and juices, stuffed them in a large, clean, Mason-type glass jar, poured the Absolut in and sealed it.
I waited one day too long. On the third day, the infusion was a gorgeous shade of bright green; the next day it starting browning, and I yanked the herbs out before the thing started to look like peat moss run-off.
The taste? Well, the Garfunkle herb mix tasted very good, though in the future I might just use rosemary (it’s got the best flavor) and some parsley for color. Turning an herbal infusion into a cocktail is easy: you can have it straight up at room temperature, put it on the rocks, stick the bottle in the freezer or add some seltzer and a lime segment. Simple! And if a guest says your handcrafted infused vodka is not to her liking? Just tell her to go reap it in a sickle of leather. That should shut her up. (But what the hell does it mean?)
The Scarborough Fair
Get some herbs. I’d try rosemary first, with some parsley for color. Measurements are useless here, since the whole point is to make it handcrafted by you. Wash and dry the herbs thoroughly, put them in a glass jar with a lid that seals tightly, pour in enough Absolut to cover the herbs, and seal the jar. Taste often. When it looks and tastes right to you, strain the infusion back into the Absolut bottle or the bottle or jar of your choice. Drink it straight, or mixed with some seltzer or a small splash of tomato juice.
Ed Sikov is the author of Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis and other books about films and filmmakers.