Muddle and Shake

I think spring and I’m filled with an unebbing anticipation of fresh ingredients, new bulbs and budding flora. I think rain, the final frost and every possible shade of green. It takes incredible patience and a seasoned eye to recognize the inaugural stalks of spring.

Among them, you’ll find countless mint varieties, thyme, garlic scapes, ramps, chives, rhubarb, pansies and wild violets.

Muddling is the most immediate and satisfying way to extract the essential oils from these fresh herbs and blossoms.

Lesley Bolton, beverage director of Avenue N American Kitchen in Rumford, muddles fresh lemon balm (a perennial member of the mint family) with house-made grapefruit bitters, elderflower liqueur and lemon to lay the foundation for The Balmbay, a verdant citrusy Collins. She adds Bombay Sapphire, a London Dry gin infused with almond, licorice and angelica root and shakes the ingredients over ice to activate the essence of the lemon balm and lift the peachy, floral overtones of the elderflower liqueur.

The Balmbay

by Lesley Bolton, Beverage Director, Avenue N American Kitchen, Rumford

Homemade bitters takes patience more than skill. Plan to get this grapefruit bitters started as soon as you can so you can enjoy The Balmbay when fresh lemon balm is growing in abundance.

6 sprigs fresh lemon balm
¼ ounce grapefruit bitters*
1 ounce elderflower liqueur
2 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
Soda water
2 lemon wheels

Muddle 5 sprigs lemon balm, 1 lemon wheel, grapefruit bitters and elderflower liqueur in a bar glass. Add gin, ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Pour contents into a rocks glass and top with a splash of soda water. Garnish with a lemon wheel and a sprig of lemon balm. Yields 1 cocktail.

* In a 1-quart glass Mason jar, combine the rinds of 3 large grapefruits, ¼ cup pink peppercorns, 1 cinnamon stick and ¼ teaspoon each cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. Pour 20 ounces of Everclear grain alcohol over the ingredients. Cover with lid and store in a cool dry place. After 3 weeks, add 1 cup “cooked sugar” to the batch (¾ cup sugar, ¼ cup water heated in a saucepan until dissolved). Cover the jar and set aside for 1 more week. Give the jar a final shake and fine-strain the mixture into a clean container. Decant the solution into a clean glass bottle with equal parts water, cover and keep refrigerated.

- By Willa Van Nostrand at edible RHODY, Photo by Chip Riegel-

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