7.11.17 Rose-Colored Glass
Hello, it's me. Remember me? I think this is the longest I've ever gone without writing here since I started this blog in 2010. I'm pulled in a different direction these days, as I have founded The Outside Institute, a new venture that is keeping me extremely busy. I encourage you to visit the site and read about our mission to help people connect to the healing and transformative powers of nature. Consider signing up for one of our Events—hikes, workshops, forest bathing—including a limited series of six-course dinners for twelve I am serving in my screened-in porch. The first two sold out and were, quite frankly, a blast. The next one is on July 29th (see details here) and there are still a few seats left. Maybe you'd like to come up for the weekend? Sullivan County has some lovely new inns and restaurants, which I've listed here. As passionate as I am about this project, Glutton for Life still has a firm grip on my heart, if not my schedule. So, here I am with a recipe for a summer cocktail featuring rose petal syrup, fresh strawberries and gin that I'm hoping will allow me to slip back into your good graces.
The special secret to this cocktail—part of what makes it so seductively summery—is a syrup made from rose petals. I've used a combination of Rosa rugosa, sometimes called dog rose, and Rosa virginiana, commonly knows as Virginia rose. Rugosa is not a native but was first introduced into North America in 1845. By now it is naturalized on the entire coast of New England and grows in many gardens all over the country. Virginiana is native to Eastern North America, where it is the most common wild rose. Both are a deep pink and sweetly fragrant, with Rugosa perhaps taking the lead in both those arenas.
The deer nibbled on my Rugosa bushes this year but I have found plenty of roses blooming along country roads in my area. I harvest big bags of the petals on warm, sunny days and whisk them home to infuse in sugar water. It's a very easy process and you are left with a batch of sweet pink syrup that wafts the essence of wild roses on a summer afternoon. Heaven.
You simply chop up the petals and soak them overnight in the syrup. The next day, strain them out and then—a key step—add some ascorbic acid as a preservative. This is just vitamin C, but it intensifies the pink color of the syrup and helps it last longer. I've kept mine in a cool, dark place for up to a year without a problem.
My friends at The Stickett Inn in Barryville recently got their cidery license to serve their Stickett Inn Cider (yes, they're that funny); it also entitles them to pour any spirit produced in New York State. When they asked me to create a special cocktail for the month of July, I knew it had to incorporate my rose petal syrup.
Nothing goes better with roses than strawberries...and gin! And lemon! And basil! These quintessential tastes of summer all come together in one mysteriously fruity and irresistibly delicious drink. I really want you to make it. Or get yourself to the Stickett Inn this month. I'll see you there...
- — 3 fresh strawberries
- — 2 ounces gin
- — 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- — 1 ounce rose petal syrup
- — Basil sprig
Muddle the strawberries in the bottom of a shaker.
Add gin, fresh lemon juice, rose petal syrup and ice.
Shake until well chilled and pour into a tumbler.
Garnish with the basil sprig.
Rose Petal Syrup
- — 2 1/4 cups water
- — 3 cups granulated sugar
- — 2 cups packed rose petals, roughly chopped
- — 3 tablespoons ascorbic acid power
Heat the water to boiling and add the sugar. Remove from the heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Allow the sugar syrup to cool to 80°F, then stir in the chopped rose petals. Cover the pot and let the flowers steep in the syrup for 24 hours.
Strain out the flowers and squeeze them well to extract all the flavor. Filter the syrup through a coffee filter or double layer of cheesecloth.
Remove 1 cup of the syrup and warm it in a saucepan. Add the ascorbic acid, whisking to dissolve. Add the warmed syrup back to the rest and mix well.
Store in airtight, sterilized glass containers in a dark place for up to a year.