Lovely Lavender

by Madeline Popelka


Ah, lavender. What a beautiful fragrance. When Kendall and I go to the market on Saturday mornings we always walk past a vendor who sells bouquets of fresh lavender. Most people like lavender in their soaps, cleaning products, or in a sachet in a clothing drawer. As a mixologist I am always thinking of ways to incorporate new fruits, herbs, and spices into cocktails. Lavender cocktail... sounds... interesting? I had to experiment.

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I bought a bouquet of lavender and let it dry out to make a simple syrup from it. For those who don’t know, simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water, brought to a boil, then cooled. To make the lavender syrup, in a saucepan I combined 2 cups of water, 2 cups of sugar, and 1 cup of dried lavender flowers and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  I then strained out the lavender and let it cool.

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Lavender syrup surprisingly works well with all base spirits (vodka, gin, whiskey, etc.). My favorite spirit is Bourbon, the All-American whiskey. By law, bourbon must be produced in the United States, made up of a grain mixture of 51 to 79 percent corn, aged in a charred oak barrel for not less than two years, and distilled at not more than 160 proof (note: Jack Daniels is NOT bourbon). I love bourbon for the sweetness from the corn, the rich vanilla-like flavor from the barrel, and its beautiful caramel color. 

It just so happens that lavender and bourbon are a match made in heaven (yay!). I created a cocktail with the lavender syrup using Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Cointreau (a French, orange-flavored liqueur), a few dashes of grapefruit bitters, and some lemon juice to balance out the sweetness. I also garnished the cocktail with a flamed orange peel to give it a hint of smokiness. 

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There are hundreds of tasty bourbons out there, but Rare Breed is my absolute favorite to put in a cocktail. It has a complex flavor and really adds some spice to a cocktail because of its high alcohol content of 54.1%, or 108.2 proof. Despite its high alcohol content, the liquid is remarkably smooth and full of rich honey-like flavor. Bourbon fans, I suggest you give this a try-- you won't find a better bourbon for $40 or less! 

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Besides liquor, lavender syrup works well with prosecco, in tea, and drizzled on Greek yogurt. I also made a killer lavender lemonade by just adding some lavender syrup to fresh lemon juice and water.

The next time you go to the market and see lavender, don't be afraid to buy it. I find it to be an extremely versatile herb that adds a lovely floral flavor to drinks. I think Kendall and I should experiment cooking with lavender-- I could really go for some lavender cookies right about now!