4 drops Celery Bitters
2 dashes Urban Moonshine Bitters
So this is my first attempt at Mixology Monday. To those folks new to Mixology Monday, it is a monthly cocktail “challenge” of sorts, where someone hosts and picks the theme. The challenge is then to design a cocktail based upon that theme. At the end, the host compiles all the entrants. This month’s theme comes from Rowen at Fogged in Lounge:
“Want to get more vegetables but you’re always eating on the run?… Well then, how about a vegetable cocktail? No, not that nice little glass of red stuff Grandma put at each place setting—we’re talking something with a kick in it. You can definitely start with the little glass of red stuff and expand it to a Red Snapper-style drink like a Bloody Mary. Or how about a cucumber-scented cooler like a Pimm’s Cup, or maybe a cocktail featuring a vegetable-based ingredient like Cardamaro or celery bitters? Maybe you’ve been wondering if you can get more mileage out of that juice extractor before consigning it to the garage sale. However you get them in that glass, be prepared for the most fun with vegetables ever.”
I actually had a little more trouble with this theme than I expected. At first, I was a little disheartened, as I had already recently posted a great cocktail that would fit these parameters: Lily’s Pad. This one featured cucumber, mint, elderflower liqueur, velvet falernum, lemon juice and citrus bitters (among other things). I had also recently posted my twist on an Archangel, Seraphim, also featuring cucumber as well as rhubarb laced Aperol and the cucumber infused Hendrick’s Gin. While maybe I could get away with using one of these recipes, I wanted to try to create something new.
Naturally, I again gravitated toward cucumber and mint, but having made two recent cocktails with such ingredients, I didn’t want to take the “easy” way out. Next came the experimentation, various vegetables, combinations, etc. Nothing seemed to really create anything worth putting on The Straight Up. Sure some were interesting (I may post one for fun), others were disgusting. I didn’t want to make a drink with vegetables that tasted nasty, just for the sake of creating a drink for Mixology Monday. It had to be something that I would want, dare I say crave in the future.
Finally, I took a step back and while looking through my bar, made a list of spirits, bitters, etc, that had some sort of ingredient in them that might fit the category of vegetable, bearing in mind the theme mentioned using a vegetable based spirit. I used vegetable a little loosely with herbal and rooty ingredients also allowed. One of my favorites, Cynar, came to mind, as well as Aperol.
I also have some newly acquired stuff I’ve been playing with: Salers, Calisaya and Bonal. I have had a notorious disdain for celery bitters, so wanted to challenge myself to use some in a cocktail. Finally, Urban Moonshine Bitters (original) is a great organic bitters made with dandelion and ginger.
To those unfamiliar with some of these, here is a quick description:
Salers – A gentian based French Apertif – this one has strong grassy notes. Very vegetal.
Calisaya – A quinine based mildly bitter and herbal orange liqueur that was used in the 1800s then became extinct. Only recently has it resurfaced in select markets.
Bonal – A vegetal gentian and quinine fortified wine, can be used in place of vermouth.
Celery bitters – As it sounds, celery flavored bitters, essential for a Fourth Regiment Cocktail, useful in a Bloody Mary.
Urban Moonshine Bitters – Organic bitters, made with roots, herbs and flowers, containing dandelion and ginger.
There were some other ingredients that got shot down, but I began playing with this combination, until I found the appropriate balance and flavor profile with the above recipe. I even managed to work the Celery bitters in (just a few drops as more overpowered it with celery for my tastes). The result is a surprisingly approachable and smooth vegetal drink that is just a little bitter (shock I know).
That being said if you take time to really taste this one, you will find layers of subtle complexity as described above. I know this uses some ingredients many folks won’t have, but aside from the pricier Calisaya, the ingredients are fairly inexpensive and worth trying.
I often use Bonal in place of vermouth, while Calisaya will appeal to fans of orange amari, such as Campari, Gran Classico, Amaro Nonino, etc. Alternatively, the less expensive Gran Classico would also work, but use a little less, as it is heavier and sweeter than Calisaya.