This morning I left the South Bay at 4am to head back to Sonoma wine country and when I walked outside I noticed it was surprisingly warm – 67 degrees to be exact. 67 degrees at 4am! I couldn’t believe it. From that moment on I knew it was going to be another hot one in Northern California.
When I returned home after work, I spent some time taking care of my herb garden as I was out-of-town all weekend. While I was watering, the aromatic notes of mint, basil, rosemary and lemon balm captivated my thirst for a refreshing patio cocktail. I decided to rummage through my cocktail bar to see what concoction I could whip up in order to satisfy my craving. Using the ingredients I had on hand, I composed this easy to make and delightfully refreshing gin-blackberry-mint cocktail. The sweet, tart, and slightly bitter flavors in the berries perfectly complemented the mellow and refreshing notes in the mint.
1 1/2 ounces gin
1 teaspoon agave nectar
Handful of blackberries (4-5)
Handful of fresh mint (4-5 leaves…depending in how “minty” you like it)
1/2 lime, freshly juiced
Soda water, float
Muddle the blackberries, mint and gin in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, nectar and lime juice. Shake and strain in a glass filled with ice. Float with soda water and garnish with a mint sprig.
Looking for more herb-inspired cocktails? Check out:
Over the weekend I spent some time working in the garden with my pops – weeding, picking oranges, checking sugar levels on the wine grapes and harvesting a large batch of heirloom tomatoes.
I absolutely LOVE heirlooms due to their refreshing and sweet flavor and unique colors and shapes. Now what to do with this batch of colorful beauties? Recently I experience a delicious dish from French Blue in St. Helena, California which inspired tonight’s appetizer. They offer this irresistible house made farmers cheese over grilled bread topped with strawberries and tomatoes. It’s to die for. So, that is the inspiration to this Heirloom, Peach and Fresh Mozzarella crostini. Sweet and savory, this is the perfect summertime appetizer.
3 – 4 small / medium heirloom tomatoes (or 1 large one), sliced
1 large peach, thinly sliced
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Baguette of your choice (I used Casa LaBelle Rustic Baguette)
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice baguette into 1/2 inch slices and coat with olive oil. Season lightly with salt & pepper and bake them for about 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove crostini’s from the oven and layer with a peach slice, tomato and mozzarella. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Casa LaBelle Bread – Casa LaBelle is a small bakery located in the tiny resort town of Monte Rio in Sonoma County.
Peach, Mozzarella and Sweet Basil – Mike’s Truck Garden (one of my favorite local produce stands)
Heirloom Tomatoes – homegrown and straight from the garden.
Here we go round the mulberry bush, The mulberry bush, The mulberry bush. Here we go round the mulberry bush So early in the morning.
Each summer I look forward to harvesting red mulberries from our two Persian mulberry trees (yes, trees — they actually don’t grow on bushes.) Native to Asia, these large reddish-black berries are only available for a short period during the summer months and are similar in appearance to blackberries. The flavor? A succulent mix between sweet & tart. Great right off the tree, these berries are also fabulous in salads or… try reducing them down and drizzled on pound cake or ice cream or even used as a sauce for your favorite protein. Being that it’s summer, I’ve decided to make a deliciously refreshing cocktail using the fresh-picked mulberries. (Oh and by the way, if you have a tree or are working with mulberries — be careful as they stain!)
20 medium sized Mulberries (or 10 large ones)*
1 tablespoon Lavender Simple Syrup (recipe below)
2 ounces vodka
5 mint leaves
Drizzle of honey
Fresh lemon juice, 1/2 lemon
Soda water, fill
Combine mulberries, mint, small drizzle of honey and simple syrup in cocktail shaker. Muddle until mulberries are juiced. Add ice, vodka and lemon juice. Shake and strain pulp using a sieve. Pour over ice in glass and garnish with extra mulberries and lavender sprig. Cheers to summer! ~Crystal
Lavender Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lavender buds (fresh or dried)
Bring sugar, water and lavender to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 – 30 mins. Strain lavender buds and transfer syrup to a container with lid. Refrigerate for up to a month. BTW – This recipe makes more then needed for one cocktail. Since you can store it for a while in the ‘fridge, experiment this syrup in other cocktails, over Greek yogurt, ice cream or as a sweetener substitute. Share with us how you used your lavender syrup on twitter @ApronsStilettos or in the comments below.
*I used mulberries since we have two beautiful trees in the backyard. Your specialty markets may carry them so ask around. Raspberries can certainly be substituted. Just remember that they will be slightly more tart than mulberries. Experiment and share with us your spin on this cocktail!