Spring (Salem) Sling

Between Pinterest, some choice web sites, and locally brewers and distillers (like Deacon Giles Distillery and Far From The Tree Craft Cider), I rarely lack inspiration for my experiments.  Now if only I could clone myself or outsource my chores and responsibilities in order to devote my energy completely to my uncompensated hobby.

This week’s creation was somewhat inspired by the recently created Vermont 75.  However, much of the creativity was driven by this new creation by Far From The Tree called Patch.  According to the can, this is their “spring cider made once a year with sweet ripe strawberries and fresh aromatic basil.”  Before my first sip of this cider, the wheels immediately turned to muddled strawberries and basil infused simple syrup with a bit of gin.

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For Basil (honey) simple syrup:

Ingredients: ½ cup water, ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup honey (local, if possible), and handful of fresh basil

Directions: Tear basil into small pieces.  I gently used my muddler to help express some of the flavor, but this is optional.  Put water, sugar and honey into a small saucepan.  Add basil.  Bring to a boil and then turn down heat and allow to simmer for 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes.  Strain syrup through a mesh sieve into a jar.  Seal and keep refrigerated.  Lasts for approximately 3 months.

*Note, I like the flavor of the honey with this, but if you prefer just a basic simple syrup, use a total of ½ cup sugar and omit the honey.

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For Cocktail:

Ingredients: ½ oz. basil simple syrup, ½ oz. lemon juice, 1 oz. gin, 3 oz. Patch cider, 2 medium sized strawberries (1 for muddling, 1 for garnish)

Directions: In the bottom of your cocktail shaker, muddle one strawberry (greens removed, of course).  Add basil simple syrup, lemon juice, gin, and ice.  Shake and strain into a double old fashioned.  (Note: there may be some small strawberry bits, though most of mine were strained out.  If this is a problem, use a fine mesh strainer instead of or in addition to the Hawthorne strainer.)  Top with cider.  Add ice, if desired.  Cut down through the middle of your strawberry and place over the rim of the glass.

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So, if you do not live near  or in Salem, Massachusetts, getting these specific ingredients may be a bit of a challenge.  And, to make this cocktail almost completely locally-sourced, I used Deacon Giles gin.  Their gin really is perfect for this drink, but you could use any gin with a good botanical flavor.   As far as cider, I have to state for the record that this particular cider is quite delicious on its own, without all of the frivolity.  I rarely drink during the week, but, if I do, cider is my drink of choice.  If you live nearby, I highly suggest buying some of this seasonal brew to have on hand.  Now, if you cannot get Patch, I would suggest getting a similar, fruity sort of cider.  Use this recipe as your guide to experiment with ingredients that go with the cider you find (whether it be raspberry, blueberry, etc.).

This drink was WAY better than I had imagined.  The muddled strawberry imparts serious flavor into the mixture – it also adds nice, natural sweetness.  The decision to use honey in the syrup was last minute, but I thought it would go well with the basil…and it does.  I really like it in this cocktail – I could taste the honey, but thought it added subtle complexity and earthiness.  It really rounds out the drink well, and in combination with the gin, makes it a sublime spring cocktail.  Cheers!

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