Fresh produce makes me giddy. I worked at the organic farm on campus while in college up in San Luis Obispo, and I mark that as the time that I both taught myself to cook, and started to give a second thought to what I was putting in my body. Our wage came in the form of a CSA basket, and every week there was some new type of sprout or a unique type of mushroom. It's fascinating to me - the variety, nutrition and flavors of produce. That fascination can bring a fury of emotions when I read articles on food politics or watch things like Food Inc. or Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution. You matter. What you eat matters. Believe it.
The combination here is a result of last weekends farmers market visit. I use the lemon thyme from my herb garden all the time, but this lemon basil we came across was the most fragrant thing I've ever smelled - only soft notes of traditional basil, more of a lemongrass scent. Hugh keeps commenting on the amazing smell, and he usually saves those compliments for bacon, caramelized onions or double chocolate chip banana bread.
I also happen to be collecting rainier cherries, grabbing them at every trip to the market, as their season is short. I put these two great finds together in a wheat berry salad with a bit of gorgonzola, but this cocktail is the stunning outcome I wanted to share with you. So pretty! I love pretty drinks. Especially pretty drinks that aren't super sweet, full of simple syrup and soda (anyone? memories of their 21st birthday? maybe something with a marschino cherry? or for my sister, 'dirty bananas,' family vacation in Jamaica circa 2008?). All to say, this is just clean and light and springy and I hope you find a reason to treat yourself to a pretty cocktail. Cheers.
RAINIER CHERRY MUDDLER // Makes 1 Cocktail
Cherries have been on the dirty dozen list, as they are challenging to grow without pesticides. Purchase organic if you can, or be sure to clean them well.
The end result here has some fibrous pieces and bits of turbinado in the glass, it adds character. You could pour it through a mesh strainer if that bothers you.
8 Rainier Cherries
Few Leaves of Lemon Basil
2 tsp. Turbinado Sugar*
2 oz. Vodka
1. Pit and halve the cherries. Put the cherries, lemon basil and turbinado in a glass (or pitcher if making more than one), and muddle it with a muddling tool, or the bottom of a wooden spoon. Get aggressive, you need to get as much juice out of the cherries as possible.
2. Fill a glass with 3/4 full with crushed ice. Add the vodka and muddled cherry mix and fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water.
* I find that rainier cherries aren't quite as sweet as bing cherries, making this drink quite light. If you like a little more tart or sweet flavor, add a splash of cherry juice to the glass.