Here at HAP, we’re pretty big on finding ways to be sustainable, budget-friendly and fabulous all at once. So with Earth Day coming up on Thursday, we’re dishing up a full week of earth-friendly posts and we’re kicking things off with a great GIVEAWAY!
One lucky reader will win a copy of Organic, Shaken and Stirred by Paul Abercrombie, which is full of delectable cocktail recipes featuring organic ingredients and organic alcohols. To enter, just leave a comment telling us one thing you’re doing this year to be more eco-conscious and we’ll pick a winner this Friday.
Paul also gave us the insider scoop on extending organic from your plate to your glass and a sneak-peek at one of the recipes in his book (which sounds perfect for a summer BBQ!):
1. Give us your one minute bio.
I first became interested in mixology – beyond the teenage tippler’s sloshing rum into a half-empty can of Coke – during a trip to Italy. My then-girlfriend-now-wife Gail and I happened into the beautiful lobby bar of the Grand Hotel in Florence and asked the bartender to suggest a drink. “Negroni”, he said. At the first sip, we were hooked. Pleasingly bitter and sweet and tart all at once, Negroni was a revelation. For months after it was pretty much our house cocktail.
Of course, this was the only grownup drink I knew how to make. I began to seek out recipes new and old, and fresher, better-tasting ingredients for cocktails. Eventually, I connected with West Coast mixologists who were among the first to emphasize organic fruits, vegetables, and even spirits in their cocktails. As soon as I tasted these drinks, I was hooked all over again.
2. How did you get interested in organic cocktails and what inspired you to write a book?
My interest in organic cocktails was in many ways an extension of my interest in organic foods. As organic and farm-fresh foods began to take off some years ago, I noticed a disconnect at restaurants. Here you’d sit, enjoying a delicious meal of fresh, in-season foods, yet in the cocktail glass you’d be served the same pre-fab cocktail mix with Day-Glo cherry colored ingredients. I wondered why people didn’t care as much about what’s in your glass as what’s on your plate. Luckily, I began to run into mixologists such as Scott Beattie and H. Joseph Ehrmann who were already leading the charge to bring the kitchen into the bar. I began reaching out to them (read: pestering them). Soon it was a minor obsession.
3. Organic is a hot health topic but alcohol is not exactly “healthy” per se. Are there any health benefits to buying organic booze? Are they offset by the alcohol?
True…booze, organic or not, is still booze. You’re not going to be healthier if the 11 daiquiris you drank last night were organic. Still, as with food, the advantages of avoiding alcohol made with pesticides, fertilizers or fungicides are manifold. Though spirits are distilled – which, it’s argued, cleans the potentially toxic “junk” out of the mix – experts argue that organically grown grain has a better cell structure and that its natural microorganisms encourage the process of fermentation. Let’s face it: organic growing methods are healthier for growers, more sustainable and just plain taste better. (Oh, and most fans swear that organic cocktails are a recipe for more humane hangovers.)
4. What’s your favorite “ingredient” to use when making cocktails?
I’m really enjoying playing with organic ingredients typically found on plates or soup bowls – like rosemary, ginger and carrots. The sweetness and “carrotness” of an organic carrot is amazing.
5. For the home bar, what are 3 key bar tools and 3 key ingredients one should always have on hand?
Without a doubt, my can’t-live-without bar gizmo is my OXO Good Grips Mini Angle Measuring Cup, which allows you to accurately measure ingredients without having to crank your head sideways to check your measure. Also, a good old-fashioned hand lemon/lime juicer. And ice. Don’t skimp on the ice!
With only three ingredients – an alcohol, sweetener and some form of fresh citrus – you can make any number of sours, a foundational category of cocktail that’s sort of the equivalent of rock songs built on three chords. Simple, but great. For example, a margarita is tequila, agave nectar and lime juice. A daiquiri is rum, simple syrup and lime juice.
Once you get the hang of sours, introduce new ingredients such as elderflower liqueur or muddling in an herb. Don’t be afraid to deviate from recipes. If you like more or less sour or sweet in a drink, that’s the right way to make the drink – for you.
Spiked Blueberry-Thyme Lemonade
8 organic blueberries
4 springs organic lemon thyme
3/4 oz simple syrup*
1 1/4 oz organic vodka (such as Reyka, Square One or Prairie Vodka)
1 oz spring water
1/2 oz elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
1/2 oz yellow Chartreuse
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the blueberries, 3 thyme sprigs and simple syrup until blueberries are mashed. Add vodka, water, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice and Chartreuse. Fill shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice and garnish with the remaining thyme sprig.
* To make simple syrup, combine 1 C organic sugar with 8 oz water in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Syrup can be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to a month.