The Stinging Nettle Martini

  
This is how to take the natural sting out of a nettle leaf and replace it with the more subtle but no less painful sting of vodka.


Does it ever feel like nettles are taking over your garden… and your LIFE?

 

If so, don’t panic! Alcohol will come to your rescue.

  
Apparently the Romans imported nettles (Urtica dioica) to the British Isles so that they could make tea.

 

This may have been what prompted the Iceni rebellion of AD61. Queen Boudicca (above) was possibly a very keen gardener and didn’t approve of the new Roman weed.

Today we rarely drink nettle tea. It is certainly not unheard. Mostly though we just battle through thickets of the plant when they spring up in the garden. I’m sure we all have painful childhood memories of nettle stings as well. Thanks Caesar…

Nonetheless, stinging nettles definitely have health benefits and a distinctive taste so we might as well use them while they’re here.

Furthermore, a farming neighbour told me that nettles only grow in good quality soil. If you’ve got them in your garden then you can take it as a sign that you’ve got some excellent topsoil at least.

Otherwise, follow this easy recipe to make a spritely alcoholic infusion from the pesky plant.

You will need:

  • A large container for liquid
  • A large pot
  • A sealable jar that can contain at least 1/2 a litre of liquid
  • Garden gloves
  • A bag or basket
  • Sugar
  • 1/2 a litre of clear alcohol (vodka would work)
  • An infestation of nettles (try not to collect them from a roadside, dog-walking area or somewhere that chemicals may have been sprayed)

You will basically harvest young nettle leaves then soak, simmer and infuse them in alcohol with sugar to create a flavoured drink to add to your martini.

  

Put on some gloves and pick the young leaves of a nettle plant. Collect them in a bag or basket. Check that there aren’t any growths, insects or dirt on the leaves (check the undersides). Discard any stems.

The leaves shouldn’t be more than about 3 inches wide and should be plucked from the upper stem of the plant. Go for the freshest, greenest ones.

Ideally the plant should be harvested in spring before it flowers or produces seed but younger plants can be harvested later if they are fresh. If you are in the West Coast of Scotland harvest them a couple of weeks before the midgies emerge for the best results.

  
Picking the leaves reminded me of the time I lived on a tea estate in central Sri Lanka. I remember beautiful, smiley but hardy Tamil women in brightly coloured saris picking young tea leaves at a rate of knots. I am sorry to say I was much slower than them at this job.
 
Once you have enough leaves to fill a 2 litre jug, put them in it, pour over some warm water, stir and leave to soak for about 10-15 minutes.

  

You can see their tiny little needles of burning pain here. The next process should (hopefully!) neutralise them.

Drain the leaves and add them to a pan of hot water over a medium heat. Stir them for about a minute. Do not bring the water quite to the boil but it should be hot.

Drain the leaves and add to a sealable jar. Add vodka until it covers the leaves. For every 1/2 litre of vodka you pour in, add 3 tablespoons of sugar. Prick the nettle leaves with a fork. Also use the fork to stir the mixture until at least some of the sugar has dissolved.  

 Seal the jar, give it a good shake and leave it to infuse in a cool, dark place. Shake it vigorously every now and then over the course of around 5 days.

Strain the liquid through a sieve. Pick out some of the more attractive nettle leaves to use as a garnish. Squeeze the rest of the leaves to get out the last of their alcohol then discard them.

 
You can serve the infusion straight up as a shot or a digestif as above. The flavour is enhanced with a little squeeze of lemon juice; it also helps to keep the glass in the freezer in advance so it’s nice and chilly when you serve it.

  


You can also serve the nettle infusion it with ice, tonic and a squeeze of lemon.

 
Or you can add 30ml to a classic martini to replace the equivalent volume of gin or vodka. Garnish with a nettle leaf and serve, perhaps in the garden – if the midgies don’t get you. 

 
The dog certainly seems to approve.

Advertisements

The Beet Up Vesper Martini at the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town 4/5

Behold, the oddest blog title I have ever produced! But you will see what I’m talking about in the bar review below. 

 

I award the above-mentioned cocktail bar 4/5 for its variation on the classic Vesper Martini. Given the strict criteria of my Martini Ratings I could only offer full points upon trying a proper classic martini but if I offer my review in word form rather than numbers I would say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the drink at this bar.

I went with a friend to the Breakfast Club near Spittalfields Market / Liverpool Street Station in London. I have wanted to try out the semi-hipster burger bar for ages but the queues on a weekend morning have normally been devastatingly long. This time, it was a Tuesday night. The service was fast, the burgers were tasty and the atmosphere was fun.

However, we had heard the rumours that a secret cocktail bar existed somewhere on the premises. To gain access you must utter a special code. After a little bit of intelligence gathering (Google and Foursquare) we deduced that we had to say “can I please see the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town?” in order to gain access. 

We uttered the words and the waitress said that one her colleagues would be right with us.

  

A few moments later, to our surprise, the fridge standing next to the bar opened up and a man stepped out of it. He asked us to join him, so we followed him back into the fridge, through a secret door into a hidden stairway, which led down to a dark, secluded bar with a surprisingly large number of drinkers and a very interesting cocktail menu. 

Obviously I ordered their martini variation on sight. 

It consisted of Tanqueray gin infused with beetroot (I am a fan of savoury infused spirits), as well as vodka, Cointreau, Lillet blanc and a red current garnish. It was a far cry from my normal classic martini but I liked it nonetheless.

Nice and cold, beautifully presented, tasty, with good, friendly service and with a lot of effort put into the venue I award the bar/diner with 4/5.  

From an objective martini-fascist perspective I would award 5/5 if they offered a classic martini with the gin and glasses kept in the freezer, a strip of lemon peel and maybe a small bowl of olives. However, you can do that at home! 
 Otherwise, come out to play, try out the food upstairs and the range of cocktails downstairs… but no heavy petting!

A martini using gin infused with coriander/cilantro



I have previously mentioned that Coriander (cilantro) is the Marmite of the herb world (you either love it or hate it). I have also previously mentioned that I love it. So I infused some gin with it.

IMG_9567
Coriander is already one of the flavours infused into many gin varieties, although juniper is (or should be) the dominant flavour. Being a traditionalist I would normally want to preserve the juniper flavour as the key ingredient but I was curious to try out something new and wanted to satisfy my own love for the coriander flavour. It has a fresh, grassy, almost citrusy taste and pairs well with lemon and lime. Critics often describe the flavour as soapy, so be careful who you serve this to. Otherwise I think it’s delicious.

IMG_9562
To infuse the gin take a handful of coriander leaf per 100ml gin you want to infuse. Wash it, pat it dry then coarsely chop it.

IMG_9566
Add it to a clean jar, top up with gin, seal the lid, give it a vigorous shake, then leave it for around two days. Shake it once or twice each day.

IMG_9582
The gin should turn a nice green hue.

IMG_9604
Strain it and discard the coriander leaves.

IMG_9605
Then decant it into a glass container or two and keep in the fridge to store, and freezer if you want to use it in a martini.

When you’re ready to serve, pour the drink as a normal martini but with coriander gin instead of normal gin. Garnish with some coriander if you have any to hand (or a piece of lemon peel which compliments the zesty coriander flavour) and serve with some nibbles.

When I was testing out the coriander gin first I felt a craving for avocado so I decided to make some very simple guacamole.

I mashed 2 avocados with a square inch of onion, chopped, a handful of chopped fresh coriander, a squeeze of tomato purée, a sprinkling of chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon or lime (whatever you have to hand) and served it with tortilla chips. This is a very basic guacamole recipe I just threw together with what I had to hand (it was a Friday night and I was exhausted). There are almost bound to be better recipes out there. My cousin in Scotland makes a good one!

The coriander martini also goes well with peanuts.



And seafood.

Here I served a plate of pre-cooked prawns with tiny drizzles of honey, sesame oil, lemon juice, mirin and rice wine vinegar, with further tiny sprinkles of grated lemon zest, chilli flakes and chopped coriander. I wanted to compliment the delicate prawns not anhialate them with a bazooka of sharp flavours.

All in all, I liked the coriander martini more than I was expecting. I also found that it went very well with certain nibbles. I would recommend it for dinner parties but you’ve got to be careful because some of your guests might be of the “I hate coriander” persuasion. 

Green Tea-infused Gin

Here is a quick guide on how to infuse gin (or vodka for that matter) with green tea for you to use in a martini or an unusual gin and tonic.

Simple, perfect, temperature-dependent, conducive towards mindful introspection… Am I talking about green tea or martinis here?
2015/01/img_9387.jpg
I’ve previously made one or two gins infused with tea, such as Earl Grey but I wanted to try it with green tea, something I drink regularly.

While powdered matcha green tea is exquisite for making a cup of tea, I wanted to use something that wasn’t powdered to infuse the gin so that it didn’t leave a lot of sediment, so I picked a high quality sencha green tea, which involves dried green tea leaves that haven’t been ground into a fine powder.

Given that better quality green tea tends to impart it’s flavour very readily the infusion process was simple.

2015/01/img_9303.jpg
For every 100ml of gin you want to infuse, use one tablespoon of green tea for a really strong flavour.

Add the tea to a jar, top up with gin, seal it and give it a really good shake – and I mean it: be really rough! In a traditional Japanese tea ceremony the host will use a whisk to stir up the tea and infuse it. You need to partially replicate this process with the jar.

2015/01/img_9306.jpg
Once your arm starts to hurt from the shaking, leave the jar to infuse for 10 minutes, giving it a rigorous shake once or twice more. However, don’t leave it too long or it will become bitter.

Strain the liquid and either discard the leaves or use them to make a gin-flavoured cup of tea (although I tried this and it tasted pretty nasty so feel free to leave this stage out). Put the strained green gin into a container and store it in the freezer.

2015/01/img_9335-0.jpg
When it’s time to serve you can make an earthy/grassy green tea gin and tonic. Alternatively serve it as a martini. You can either follow the classic martini recipe and replace the gin with your green tea infusion, or you can do as I do and replace half of the normal gin with your green tea infusion to keep it subtle.

2015/01/img_9386-0.jpg
However, I would like to make a confession: I am not completely satisfied with this whole concept. While the thought of combining green tea and martini works very well in theory, the traditionalist in me simply prefers to have a good cup of hot green tea, followed by a clean, cold classic martini later in the day.

Perhaps we shouldn’t try to improve two separate things which are already simple and perfect in their own right. Or maybe I’m just a traditionalist. You decide.

How to make sage-infused gin (for martinis or gin and tonics)

2015/01/img_9361.jpg
I have sage growing in the garden so I thought I would make good use of it. When infused in gin it adds a subtle dimension to a martini. It also goes very well in a gin and tonic.

2015/01/img_9351-1.jpg
Pick a generous bunch of sage leaves, approximately 15 per 100ml of gin you intend to infuse.

2015/01/img_9297.jpg
Wash, pat dry, then roughly chop the leaves.

2015/01/img_9298.jpg
Add them to a jar and top up with gin. I used around 300ml. Give it a rigorous shake and leave it to brew for two days, shaking it once or twice more over the course of the period.

2015/01/img_9360.jpg
When it’s time to pour, make a classic martini but replace the standard gin with your infused sage gin. Feel free to garnish with a fresh sage leaf.

2015/01/img_9353.jpg
As an accompanying amuse-bouche try turning the heat up on a frying pan and add some olive oil. When it’s hot stir in some minced garlic, chopped walnuts and more fresh sage leaves. Stir fry for about a minute or two until the leaves are crunchy. Serve immediately.

Another selection of recent martinis

Here are some I made earlier…

IMG_9034.JPG
A frosty classic.
IMG_8951.JPG
A lemon drop martini with foam.

IMG_8952.JPG
An earl grey martini LINK with foam.

IMG_9003.JPG
A spicy Sriracha martini LINK

IMG_9013-0.JPG
A dirty Mr. Gibson (combining this with this)

IMG_9017-1.JPG
A tribute to the God of dirty martinis.

IMG_9039.JPG
A frosty classic with mixed nuts.

IMG_9043-0.JPG
A Gibson with olives and sliced pickled gherkins.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/80f/64886995/files/2014/12/img_9154.jpg
Here’s a classic martini I made for my grandmother at Christmas.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/80f/64886995/files/2014/12/img_9204.jpg
A dirty martini by the fireside.

Earl Grey Gin & Tonic

2015/01/img_9388.jpg
I previously made Earl Grey infused gin which I’ve used to make one or two martinis.

However, for a highly refreshing (and less alcoholic alternative) I would also recommend this infused drink for a nice gin and tonic (yes, I drink tonic water sometimes). Right now it’s in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere but if you’re in Australia, Chile, South Africa, the tropics, the equatorial regions or anywhere else currently enjoying warming weather this might be a nice drink to enjoy at the end of the day.

Otherwise you can wait until spring and summer if you’re in the northern latitudes, although so long as you’re wearing enough warm clothing it’s quite a nice drink for any time of year

If you keep the gin and the glass in the freezer prior to drinking this it will be even more refreshing.

* Take the glass and add some ice.
* Squeeze a slice of lemon peel over the inside of the glass so that the lemon oil is sprayed in over the ice
* Pour in a measure or two of the Earl Grey Gin
* Top up with tonic to your taste
* Use the lemon peel to stir the drink then drop it in the glass as a garnish
* As an alternative garnish to lemon, you could use a slice of fresh cucumber. It gives the drink a fresh grassy start, which is followed by the longer, slower more subtle arrival of the smoky earl grey flavour.