I’ve successfully grown one whole cucumber in my garden this year.
Well, there were more than that, but our dog, Roxiegirl, has a vegetable addiction. One summer, we left her overnight and this is what happened to my broccoli plants.
Anyway, I snatched the one cucumber she was kind enough to leave on the vine and harvested some basil leaves for this summery, garden cocktail.
DU JARDIN [from the garden]
In a glass:
- One inch grated cucumber
- 4-5 leaves basil, rinsed
Muddle to release the basil oils
- One and a half ounces Martini Bianco
Fill with tonic water and ice cubes.
Garnish with a cucumber slice.
^^Oh, look!^^An amateur video of me making a mess!^^
Its freshness is perfect for a hot, late afternoon aperitif and invigorates the palate for the upcoming dinner. The crispness of the cucumber mingles with the savory basil and the bitter citrus & vanilla notes of the Martini Bianco vermouth rounds it out.
In the States, we would never think to use a vermouth as the base of the cocktail. Before I moved to Europe, if someone had suggested drinking a straight vermouth, I would have gagged a little. On one of my visits home I was relieving a buffalo wings craving and asked for a Rosso vermouth on ice. It took the bartender and the bar manager and the general manager about twenty minutes to figure out how to charge me for it because it’s never more than a garnish in most American cocktails.
Vermouth is a fortified wine – a wine base that has been (with endless proprietary blends) flavored with fruits, herbs, or spices (aka botanicals) and then distilled and sweetened. Since the wine has gone through a distillation process, it stops evolving, allowing it to be kept for longer periods of time.
It’s a shame that it’s almost always found on the bottom shelf in the gin section. Thanks to Bond, James Bond the martini drinkers in America seem to be the only ones buying it and just the extra-dry versions. A touch is poured into a glass, swished around, and then dumped out adding a hint of the herbal flavors to the vodka or gin. The original purpose of this spirit was to make a medicinal tonic more palatable – that whole “spoon full of sugar” concept. The various botanicals that flavor the spirit were prescribed by European doctors to calm the ailments of their patients.
If you hesitate to purchase a bottle of vermouth because you know it’ll collect dust in the back of the cabinet, fear not! Many brands sell 375ml sizes. Be aware, though, the smaller the bottle, the less value for your money. A regular 750ml bottle is not going to be expensive and there are endless ways you can use it – add a splash to your next pasta sauce, your tomatoes du jardin will thank you.