By Brian Mitchell, Corporate Beverage Director, Max Restaurant Group
Last night we had the pleasure of kicking off our new season for the Max Chef to Farm Series, now in its 7th season. This dinner series is a popular series where we take the Max experience out to local farms and present meals based on the ingredients available at that point in the season and what we can source locally.
This series has become so popular that we routinely sell out each event, and often have a wait list. Chef Scott Miller along with a number of the other Max Chefs creates thoughtful, delicious meals with locally sourced farm produce as well as locally sourced meats, cheeses and seafood. For my part, I get to start the evening off with a welcome cocktail when guests arrive, and in line with the locally sourced ingredients I try to find not only local produce or other ingredients to make this cocktail. I also like to find local, or at least hand-crafted / artisanly produced, spirits for the base of these drinks.
For the summer of 2014, I have decided to theme my drinks under the umbrella name/concept of Forager Cocktails, and will be producing a series of these drinks for each C2F dinners through the season, each making best use of local ingredients available at that point in the season.
I had so many requests last night for my recipe that I am posting here for any to see and use. Please feel free to contact me if you need assistance or have questions on how to recreate this cocktail or any others in the series.
For the Forager Cocktail #1, I made a drink based on a slightly obscure, but well thought out drink called the Artemis Flower. This drink combines fresh ingredients that fit perfectly with what is available in early summer – berries. For my part, I called this drink the Rosedale Flower, as we were serving the dinner at Rosedale Farms in Simsbury, Ct, and the main ingredient here were the strawberries picked fresh that morning.
I used the berries with some Bourbon, fresh lime juice, house made “sambuca”, and a thyme syrup that I made in the morning. The “sambuca” actually makes use of a few other locally sourced items for a great flavor twist that is hard to replicate. I use Rime Vodka, which is made by Westford Hill Distillers in Ashford, Ct as the base, to which I infused about a dozen (per 750ml of vodka) fennel blossom heads into slowly for about 3-4 hours. This process allows me to pull the flavor out of the fennel, but not the harsh green components that would detract from the lovely licorice flavors. I added some sugar to balance and the result is very similar to a Sambuca.
My Bourbon of choice for the night is a small production bourbon called Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon, from Kentucky. This is an 88 proof whiskey that is actually aged about 8 years for mellowing. I like the power this bottling has, along with the deep bourbon flavor, and the extra touch of proof did not hurt at all. In fact, the tempering of alcohol by the sweetness from the fresh thyme syrup was perfect. Very simple to make, I used a big fist of thyme sprigs and added them while the water was still cool and then let it steep as it came up in temperature. Once I could smell the thyme strongly, I pulled it off the heat just before boiling. I let it sit for a few minutes and then strained out the leaves and stems. While still hot, I mixed in equal parts (by volume) of granulated sugar to make my syrup. Very flavorful and delicious – adding a great extra flavor element to this drink.
anyone can make this drink at home, and if you are willing to go a little extra for the local and the home-made ingredients, then you will have an even more special experience – something we try to achieve out on the farm.
Forager Cocktail # 1 – The Rosedale Flower
In a mason jar –
Add 3-4 fresh picked strawberries – lightly crushed, but not pulverized
Then combine in jar
2oz Corner Creek Bourbon
½ oz House-made fennel-buca (you can use regular Sambuca like Meletti)
¾ oz Thyme Syrup
½ fresh lime juice
Let sit for a few minutes to absorb the strawberry juice
Fill with ice, add splash of Club Soda and serve with Thyme sprig for garnish