Kendall and I stumbled upon some stinging nettle at the market last weekend. I’ve heard of stinging nettle before, but never tried it. Definitely never thought of putting it in a cocktail until I saw this month’s Mixology Monday theme, “Witches’ Garden”, hosted by Mark Holmes of the Cardiff Cocktails tumblr.
I love finding unique herbs at the farmers market and trying to find ways to incorporate them in cocktails. I gotta say, I was a little intimidated by the nettles. Stinging nettles are covered with nasty little hairs that will actually sting you! You should wear gloves when handling it raw, or else you’ll end up with a bunch of little red bumps all over your hands. But you’ll be safe once you cook it or soak it in water—this will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant.
Not only are nettles great to eat and drink in cocktails, soups and sauces, but they’re also packed with nutrients—they're high in minerals including potassium, iron, and calcium! Stinging nettle has been used to treat allergies, asthma, joint pain, and other symptoms of arthritis. It is also found in shampoos and scalp creams to treat dandruff.
Stinging nettles taste kind of like spinach, but with an earthy finish that’s similar to the taste of bitter green tea. They made excellent syrup, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found that it complemented the vanilla and caramel notes of good bourbon.
In the place of bitters, I often use a few drops of Absinthe to create a more complex cocktail. I use St. George Spirits’ Absinthe, which is the first legal American absinthe released in the U.S. after the ban on absinthe (1915) was overturned in 2007. I find that a couple drops of it in a cocktail creates a more tempered drink, which I can sip on for several minutes, leaving the taste of fennel and star anise lingering on the back of your palate.
The Witch's Remedy
2 oz. Bourbon
¾ oz. Stinging Nettle Syrup*
4 drops Absinthe
Combine all ingredients in a pint glass, stir with ice, and then strain over one large ice cube. Garnish with stinging nettle leaf (one that has been steeped in water, so you don’t sting yourself!).
*Stinging Nettle Syrup
1 cup Stinging Nettle Leaves
2 cups Water
1.5 cups Sugar
Juice of ½ Lemon
1 oz. Vodka
Combine water and stinging nettle in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Then add lemon juice and vodka, let it cool, and then strain.