Too pretty to drink?

By PA/TPN, in Food and Drink · 18-01-2019 15:08:00 · 0 Comments

When it comes to mixology, garnish is the cherry on the cake.

And if you want to add interest and colour, what could be more attractive than a beautiful bloom or a delicate petal perched on the rim of a glass?

But wait, why not go one step further and plant that shrub or blossom in the cocktail recipe, so your drink is in full bloom, from beginning to end? After all, a freshly picked floral bouquet means you can add unique, unusual and delicate taste combinations. Especially if you've had your fill of maraschino cherries.

To inspire budding mixologists, Pip McCormac, author of The Herb & Flower Cookbook,has created a series of make-at-home floral-infused drinks, featuring everything from rose petals, to borage leaves and fennel flowers.

"Flowers can definitely be all style and no substance - often they're used as decoration and then discarded, such as on lavish cakes.

"But I'm more interested when they can be used to enhance the flavour of a dish or drink - some of the brightest and most beautiful blooms, like marigolds, nasturtiums and even certain varieties of tulip can be used instead of seasoning," says McCormac.

Most importantly, as well as looking gorgeous, they taste great.

Here are two to get you started, one made with vodka, the other with gin...

1. Dirty Nasturtium Martini

Nasturtium seeds have been called 'poor man's capers' and, once pickled, they do have the same umami sharpness. Nasturtiums themselves are a savoury flower, peppery like radishes, nowhere near as sweet as their fiery petals might suggest. Here, they perform the same duty as olives, turning neat spirits into an eminently drinkable aperitif.

Base ingredients:

Pickled nasturtium seeds

100g fresh nasturtium pods

1/2tbsp salt

1tsp pink peppercorns

1tsp mustard seeds

1tsp light brown sugar

100ml white vinegar

Cocktail Ingredients:

70ml vodka

1tbsp dry vermouth

1tbsp pickled nasturtium juice

Nasturtium flowers for garnish

Method: Wash the nasturtium seeds in cold running water, before putting them into a pickling jar with the salt, peppercorns, mustard seeds, sugar and vinegar. Screw the lid of the jar firmly shut and leave for at least three days, or for up to six months.

To serve: Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, vermouth and pickling juice, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Add four or five pickled nasturtium pods and garnish with a head or two of nasturtiums.

2. Cucumber, Lemon and Fennel Flower Gin

This is the best kind of cocktail - low effort, but with huge results. The coolness of the cucumber, the twist of lemon and the aniseed pep of the fennel flower come together to make one wholly refreshing drink, a depth of flavour running through the three additions.

You don't have to use expensive gin - in fact, the cheaper the better. It will take on the taste of the infusion, leaving you with something so much greater than the sum of its parts. It will keep, sealed, for up to a month.


1L gin

1 cucumber (sliced into ribbons)

Zest of two lemons, plus more for decorating

Cloudy lemonade

Fennel flowers for garnish

Method: Put all the ingredients except the cloudy lemonade together into one jug, carafe or bottle. Cover and leave to infuse for at least two hours, but ideally overnight.

To serve: Half fill a tumbler with ice. Add a measure of gin and top with lemonade. Stir slowly and garnish with a swirl of lemon zest and a scattering of fennel flowers.

Word of warning: Make sure any flowers you use in food or drinks are pesticide-free. Your best bet is to find a food-focused retailer, ensuring you can eat what you buy. Another option is to go foraging - but make sure you know what you're picking, and don't forage where pesticides or chemicals might have been used.


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