At the New York Botanical Garden this week, a corpse flower that is ten years in the making has finally begun to bloom. Scientifically known as amorphophallus titanum (translated as “giant shapeless phallus” – stop giggling!), the corpse flower is fascinating. It can reach over 3 meters in height and when it blooms it looks magnificent, with a single, giant spathe (petal) that is green on the outside and deep burgundy red on the inside, wrapped around a core (spadix) that looks like an enormous loaf of french bread or a huge, misshapen penis. The flower takes 7-10 years before it blooms for the first time and when it does, it remains open for only 24-48 hours. Even more amazingly, the blooming flower smells like rotting animal flesh (hence its name), in order to attract carrion beetles and flies that help it pollinate.
So, in celebration of the New York Botanical Garden’s corpse flower blooming as I write this, pull out the cocktail shaker and make yourself a Corpse Reviver No. 2. I don’t know what happened to No. 1 (did it ironically die?) but this drink is everything I love in a cocktail. Bracingly sour, not too strong but strong enough to give you a pleasant buzz after just one, and very refreshing. Cheers!
Corpse Reviver No. 2
Makes one drink
1 oz. gin
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 dash absinthe or ouzo or Piccard
Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake until outside of shaker is frosty 15-20 seconds. Strain in chilled martini or coupe glass and garnish with sprig of thyme.
“What did Steve get you for your birthday?” my sister asked me on the phone. It was a beautiful morning a few weeks ago and I was indeed celebrating my birthday. “A few gifts,” I said to her, “but I will open them tonight, though I did get to open one this morning.”
“What was it?” she asked eagerly.
“Vinegar,” I replied.
We both burst out laughing. “Is he trying to tell you something?” she asked jokingly, which made us laugh even more.
No, this wasn’t a symbolic gift. It was a thoughtful one, since I had expressed a desire for this vinegar for a while. It’s a Thai drinking vinegar that I was very curious to try. Steve knew that and got me the pineapple version. As it turns out, it’s irresistibly delicious. As in, when you taste it you want to chug the bottle (which you shouldn’t). As soon as we tried it, we knew this would have to be an ingredient for a cocktail.
I’ve tried inventing cocktails before, but I’ve never been successful. My ability to create food recipes does not seem to translate to cocktails. But this time, I got lucky. After the first try, I came up with a cocktail that we both loved. In fact, we may have to order a second bottle of the drinking vinegar soon.
Makes 2 drinks
3 oz gin
3 oz Pimm’s No. 1
3 oz Pok Pok Som Pineapple Drinking Vinegar (you can buy this from many stores or online from places like Amazon)
2 maraschino cherries (optional)
In a shaker, add gin, Pimm’s, and vinegar.
Add ice to above the level of the liquid. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
Strain into chilled coupes and garnish with a maraschino cherry in each coupe.
For the last few weeks and until the end of the month I am working on Saturday afternoons. Every Saturday I leave home after lunch and get back around 6pm. As I am leaving work, I send a text message to Steve: “On my way. Cocktails?” I did it the first Saturday I had to work and it’s now become a tradition. I show up around 6pm and we share a cocktail, different each week. This is one of those cocktails. It’s a little tart and a little fizzy and one hundred percent refreshing. It’s the kind of cocktail you gulp down in less than 2 minutes without realizing it. In other words, my favorite kind.
Pomegranate Aperitif – Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 6 drinks
Note: If you don’t have boiled cider syrup or saba (wine-grape juice that’s been reduced until syrupy and concentrated), use a few drops of good balsamic vinegar.
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons boiled cider syrup or saba
2 cups Lillet Blanc
4 dashes celery bitters
Whisk pomegranate juice and cider syrup or saba in a large pitcher, then stir in Lillet and bitters. Pour into rocks glasses filled with ice; top off with club soda.
Remember when you were a kid and summers seemed endless? When school would come to an end and you couldn’t even imagine that it would ever start up again? My childhood summers were like that. They were also hot, incredibly hot. Temperatures would routinely get above 110° F but we had no air conditioning to fight the heat. Just standing fans that seemed to blow non-stop during the whole summer, providing us with little to no relief. There were ice cold bottles of Coca Cola, rose-flavored ice cream, and jiggly jello desserts. There was the beach, the one we saw very few times each year, even though we lived on an island. This was the time before highways, when a trip from our home, in the middle of the island, to the beach took a long time and required meticulous preparations by my parents. These summers were filled with the sounds of crickets in the quiet, dense, and damp air that you could cut with a knife. The slow, lazy mornings were interrupted by the man with the pickup truck, driving from neighborhood to neighborhood and shouting over his megaphone: “Watermelons! I got watermelons!” We heard him before we saw him and his truck slowly driving down the road, its cab filled to the brim with enormous green-and-white, misshapen globes. Their bright red flesh would often be that night’s dinner, along with a slice of bread and a piece of halloumi cheese.
This year’s summer seemed anything but endless. It hadn’t even begun back in late June when I could feel the stress of its end bearing down on me. The weather has been mild, pretty close to perfect. The AC has kept even the hottest days at bay. There were no crickets and no rose-flavored ice cream. But there was watermelon. Perhaps disguised as a cold margarita, it can help you accept the summer’s end a little easier.
Makes 2 drinks
4 oz tequila
1.5 oz lime juice
1 oz Cointreau
fresh watermelon juice (see directions below)
To make watermelon juice, blend cubes of watermelon flesh (you can leave the seeds in) in blender until smooth. You can pass it through a fine mesh sieve to remove the blended seeds if you want. Or leave it in the fridge and the small bits of seed will sink to the bottom. Or you can just leave them in the juice.
Pour tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau in a shaker with ice cubes. Shake for a few seconds and strain in two tall glasses with ice. Top with watermelon juice.
Steve and I took a short vacation last week, hence the lack of post over the weekend. We visited our friends in California and the four of us rented a house in Palm Springs for three days. We did nothing but eat and drink and be lazy. It was hot and mostly sunny there, perfect weather for an ice cold cocktail, so we made one of our favorites: vodka rosemary lemonade fizz. The first time we made this was a few years back for a party we had. We thought it would be a bust, that people would find it too simple or the herbal taste of rosemary too strong. But it was a huge hit and the recipe has been passed around from friend to friend ever since. It’s a simple recipe, really. Basically a rosemary infused lemonade, mixed with vodka, and topped with club soda. Pour yourself a glass and toast the arrival of spring.
Vodka Rosemary Lemonade Fizz – From Epicurious.com
Makes 8 8oz drinks
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 (8-inch) rosemary sprigs
Chilled club soda or seltzer
Garnish: 8 (3-inch) rosemary sprigs
Bring lemon juice, sugar, and rosemary to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Discard rosemary sprigs.
Fill 8 (8-ounces) glasses halfway with ice. Divide syrup (about 2 tablespoons each) among glasses and add vodka (1-2 tablespoons each, depending on how strong you want it). Top off with club soda.