In a Shot: A recap on the drink that caught the attention of few and ended up winning the hearts of many over four years and possibly counting.
“I think pickles are cucumbers that sold out. They sold their soul to the devil, and the devil is dill...”
I think whoever wrote this, clearly walked through a life of tunnel vision. There is nothing more satisfying than the vinegary crunch of a damn fine pickle. I agree that at some point, there simply isn't a more refreshing or practically advancing produce than the cucumber. It is a fascinating being. It originated in India, like a lot of our best ingredients and has the misconception of being a vegetable like the tomato. Botanically speaking, if it grows with seeds within itself and from a flower, it is technically a fruit. Please, reserve your arguments for the true hearted. I consider it by fact a fruit and by practice one of my vegetables, so let's not get so hasty here. Perhaps it was just the way I was raised!
Getting back to the point at hand though, THIS GUY WAS BIASED!!!! The combination of fresh dill and cucumber prior to pickling is something of matchmaker game shows. It is currently trendy, it was meant to be for this generation and those who witness it, when done right, applaud! I came across such an inspiration from a Mixologist named Scottie in Rehoboth beach with my recently married wife, Mary, during one of several honey moons blessed to us from this amazing community, Cameron Station, Alexandria, during our courtship. Thanks again to Carla B. and more importantly during this viral infestation, Pat S. and her family for leading us to their beach house! The day I came home, the idea of using cucumbers and dill had to take place! With that, eventually came a cocktail that comprised of Grey Goose vodka, fresh dill muddled into kosher salt, fresh lime juice as well as juiced cucumbers and a syrup made from raw cucumbers, I had created the summer/spring cocktail anthem without even truly knowing it! I thank the Przystawik family for guiding me on the culinary process, sharing the true strengths of salt and acid. Because of them, I consider that an integral part to my original balance and utilise it to make everything I consider, thus far.
"The beauty of this drink is that you not only get one of your daily vegetables, it's the fact that it helps to make your skin look better; and after two or three, it makes everybody else look better too!"
- Johnny Cocktail
Every month at Food Matters, their menu changed and with that, so did the cocktail. None more requested nor remembered was this particular concoction though. I had people asking me for recipes and calling me a saint or a doctor and on certain days that never included Sundays, a God. I had no choice, but to bring it back, but I told everybody that I would change it so I could let my creative juices flow. It became the flagship of my stable of cocktails. In five years being at Food Matters, I created in some form, five of these fresh elixirs. The first, now down in history with vodka and dill. I once recreated it guest bartending for Hook restaurant in Georgetown, DC utilising Hendrick's Gin, a match far more superior in my humble opinion.
"It is the destiny of mint to be crushed."
- Waverley Lewis Root
Next year, I created a cucumber Mojito switching out the said herbs and spirit with rum and mint. It was here, I tried making the drinks peeling the cucumber skin for both the juice and the syrup. The outcome was far more brighter, light and cleaner. It is now the staple when making these drinks. This combination, strangely gave off a side effect flavor of jolly rancher sour apple hard candies! One of my personal favorites.
"Miss Ainslie gathered a bit of rosemary, crushing it between her white fingers. 'See,' she said, 'some of us are like that, it takes a blow to find the sweetness in our souls.'"
Lavender and Old Lace
-Myrtle Reed (1874–1911)
For Catoctin Creek Distilleries of Loudon County I recreated the drink showcasing their Mosby's all natural and organic rye spirit with Rosemary, a drink the master distiller's described as a favorite and nicknamed themselves as the "Cool Hand Cuke". The major difference with this beverage is that the drink was served over rocks and should have a large sprig of rosemary next to the straw so that when one goes to sip it, it has that fresh Rosemary wafting into your nostrils!
“Some writers say the leaves are used for seasoning, but this statement seems odd, as all the green parts of the plant exhale a very strong odor of the wood-bug, whence the Greek name of the plant.”
— Vilmorin-Andrieux (on cilantro), from The Vegetable Garden (1885)
Let me quickly state that there simply are no descent quotes out there regarding Cilantro! Moving on. When the word got out that Food Matters was coming to a close, I selfishly thought about my cocktail specials and how I wouldn't be able to showcase them. And so I figured I'd end this off where it blew up. With cilantro fresh and in season, I created the Cucumber Cooler # 4. A drink, yet again comprising of cucumber juice and syrup with lime. This time the show stoppers are silver tequila, freshly muddled cilantro and a cilantro salt. Consider it a perfect spin on the Margarita. From this point on, now that I've covered all the basic clear spirits and my most favorite herbs (not to mention the temporary lack of a restaurant vessel) the future of #5 is mystic and challenging. Wish me luck!
My 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Pennington, once addressed the entire class reviewing papers stating "Boys and girls, one day, John Shope is going to write....SOMETHING." Funny how it turned out to be a blog and a cocktail menu! I want to thank every single person, whether faced or not who ever bought my Cucumber Cooler or ANY of my drinks; You made me unique and I knew I was doing something great because of the words you said and the memories you created. I say this, I don't plan on stopping now so look out for Johnny Cocktail, I've got a feeling that this is only the beginning!
I know I say it more times than necessary but once again, thanks for all of the love and support.
|Cheers to Adan Aparicio for all of the drawings he produced at Food Matters for the Cocktail Program.|