A couple of weeks ago I was perusing Chow Hound, (a food website I spend too much time on) and came across a recipe for lemon digestif, I scanned it and moved on but found that later in the day I was thinking about it….and thinking about how cool it would be to make my own batch. I remembered my Mom making a coffee liqueur, (very much like Kahlua) when I was little and I did something much like that a few years ago to give as holiday gifts….turned out fine, but never really being a fan of breakfast beverage flavored drinks I thought this digestif idea might be more up my alley.
I went into work and asked Dale if she still had some basil in her amazing garden and was delighted to hear that she in fact did have a bit left. She offered to bring them the following week and I asked Merritt to order me some Everclear because I had read that it would absorb the flavors better than, say Vodka. Last Friday afternoon I got my case of Everclear and Saturday morning Randy brought in a giant Hefty bag FULL of the fresh herbs his wife had trimmed from her garden, I could not wait to get started. I had the brunch at Café Arte on Sunday so I had to wait until Monday to begin my project.
Don’t know why I thought it was going to be labor intensive….so wasn’t, in fact it was the single easiest project I have ever done, (if school had been so easy maybe I would have stayed!). I lined up my four mason jars and separated my herbs, there was; basil, tarragon, lavender and lemon thyme. No chopping required, I just stripped the herbs off their stalks and piled about a quarter cup of each into its own mason jar, covered with two cups of Everclear, closed the lids and just let them sit for 7 days. I wish I had thought to take pictures of them as they went from clear to varying shades of green, was pretty cool to watch.
Yesterday I lined up four quart sized mason jars, covered the top of each of the open jars with two coffee filters and placed the rings over the jars securing the filters, then I slowly poured each of the herb infused Everclear into their new larger homes, (this bit took some time as the herbs fill up the filter and you either have to remove them or pour really slow) discarded the herbs and the filters and added a cup and a half, (or just a little over) of simple syrup….gave them a swirl to mix them up, popped on the lids and stashed them in the freezer for the night.
I woke up this morning allowing myself to hang in front of Jeremy’s room for a second, (for years my morning ritual was to pass his room and glance in at him sleeping…did it for months after he went away to school, ouch. I catch myself doing it for days after one of his visits) you know, he is a strong, tall, very together young man but seeing him sleeping, still my baby…he even looks little when he is all tucked under the covers, that is until he rolls over and stretches out one of his GIANT arms….seriously his “wing span” is longer than I am…and the hairy pits…well those take him right out of the baby category, ick, but he is still pretty dern cute.
I had my two cups of coffee and waited until a respectable hour to try my concoctions…so, um, yeah…it was 9:30 and this is what I told myself, “Okay it is 9:30, on a work day I would be on my way into the shop and I could be tasting wine by 10:00 so this really is not all that different” seriously. I tried the basil first…gotta say this stuff is pretty sweet upfront, a bit shocking really but the herb flavor was wickedly intense, the mouth feel unctuous, there was a spike of alcohol but the finish was fresh sweet basil…so cool! Tried the tarragon next, loved it…the anise flavor was explosive and tremendously long. The lavender….hmmm, it was okay but the finish was slightly bitter, not sure why but I don’t think I will be making that again. Lemon thyme was absolutely gorgeous, so fresh, vibrant, loaded with tangy lemon and sexy herby notes…yum.
I will be making these again but I might tweak it a bit, maybe a mix of Everclear and vodka and just a touch less simple syrup as I am not too into sweet, think it will be lemon and grapefruit next!
UPDATE (1/7/09) So after a few attempts at just sipping these I almost gave up, just too damn sweet for me but while rumaging around in the fridge the other night I found a bottle of tonic, (yeah, go figure there might be some form of mixer..that um, goes really well with, oh I don't know...Gin maybe?) and made a very tasty cocktail!! One part whatever flavor Digestif poured over crushed ice then topped off with 3 parts tonic water, really refeshing and in no way distracts from the lovely herby flavors...in fact I found that the herby flavors where more pronounced without all that sweetness....hooray new yummy cocktail, guess I better stock up on Everclear.