Pine trees have been on my mind as of late, maybe due to the fact that we are surrounded by them, or maybe because they stick out like a sore thumb among the piles of fluffy white snow we’ve gotten this winter. Whatever the reason, I’ve been obsessing about what they might taste like in a cocktail-of course!
In France I tried an amazing pine liqueur after an amazing meal of coq au vin and morels, a meal that I can still taste if I close my eyes. There was something totally surprising about the flavor of the mushrooms and the gamy rooster followed by the pine. It was, for sure, one of the most profound meals of my life and I am transported to a place of dirt and moss and forest floor every time I think of it.
Not having that amazing pine liqueur in my possession (stupid, stupid) and noticing that there are plenty of pine trees in my neighborhood, I decided to start experimenting with pine needle syrups to get the desired piny flavor. This is how, at 10 AM one morning my neighbor caught me stealing branches from her beautiful pine tree-in my pajamas. I hope she doesn’t mind. It is amazing to what lengths we will go in pursuit of a great cocktail-risking our lives (and reputations) over snow banks and fences. ”It’s for a cocktail I’m making!” I explained. Right.
A Walk in the Woods
1 1/2 oz. Single Malt Scotch
1/2 oz. Pine Needle Syrup*
1/2 oz. Absinthe
As I risked life and limb (no pun intended!) I got to thinking that the majority of these regal pines probably weren’t here a hundred years ago. The romantic in me imagines an army of ragged and tough CCC (that’s the Civilian Conservation Corp) men planting trees up and down my street…of course they didn’t, but it’s fun to imagine. But FDR’s “Tree Army” did amazing things for the landscape of America, building trails and wildlife shelters, stocking fish into streams and rivers, planting forest and developing soil conservation. And today I am thankful that I can clip a few needles from a tree, make a cocktail to sip on, and think of just how lucky we are.
The New Deal
1 1/2 oz. Gin
1/2 oz. Pine Needle Syrup*
1/2 oz. Grapefruit Soda**
1/4 oz. St. Germain
*Pine Needle Syrup
bunch of pine needles that have been cleaned and dried
infuse needles into a simple syrup over the stove
-if you want the pine flavor but not the sweetness, you can also make a pine needle tea by skipping the sugar part. I was using white pine needles, but think that a Douglass Fir might offer more flavor…experimenting with that next!
This was the first time I made a soda (next post there will be more info) so not a pro on this. All I did was put freshly squeezed grapefruit juice into my soda syphon, added a teaspoon of sugar and one charger. So simple. You could easily just use grapefruit juice and some soda water too!