Celery-spiked cocktail recipe: Green Hornet

My article, “Put A Stalk In It,” about celery-spiked cocktails, is in the May/June issue of Imbibe Magazine.

Although it may seem like an obscure ingredient for cocktails, once I started looking around, I found myself spotting celery everywhere, in various forms. Erick Castro has a Paloma riff at his new bar, Polite Provisions, subbing Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda in place of grapefruit Jarritos. Celery foam tops Bloody Marys.  A Celery Gimlet is on the menu at Saxon + Parole, one of my new favorite bars — with celery juice and Maldon sea salt. Celery shrub here. Celery bitters there. Celery seed-infused syrups. Housemade celery cordial at Dead Rabbit. In researching a separate article on Rock & Rye, I came across a 1902 reference to “La Rue’s Celery Rock & Rye.”  

It’s enough to make you want a good drink.  So here’s one to try. Although it didn’t fit into the Imbibe article, it’s a mighty refreshing cocktail nevertheless.

Green Hornet

Tona Palomino, Trenchermen, Chicago, IL

The menu description reads simply:  celery gin and tonic. “A lot of people thought it was celery gin,” notes Palomino. “Rather, it’s a celery-flavored gin and tonic.”

1.5 oz. gin

1.5 oz. fresh celery juice

3/4 oz. simple syrup

3/4 oz. lime juice

I dash  Bitter Truth Celery Bitters (optional)

1 oz.  tonic water

Measure everything but the tonic water into a cocktail shaker. Cover with ice and shake. Strain into a 12-ounce Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top off with the tonic water.

For the perfect Gin & Tonic, just add…spice?

Is this the "ultimate" G&T?

So I’ve survived Snowpocalypse 2010. There’s still two feet of snow on the ground, and I plan to distract myself from the big dig-out with a warm-weather drink:  a cool, crisp gin and tonic.

Not long ago, a distiller confided to me his recipe for a “perfect gin & tonic.” Sure, it features his gin…but still, I love meeting (and drinking with) distillers. They tend to be intelligent people (often with advanced degrees in engineering or chemistry) and passionate about what they do and what they drink.

So when a distiller makes a cocktail suggestion, I listen.

The distiller in question was Alexandre Gabriel, president of Cognac Ferrand. I’ll spare you the details of our interview, but it’s important to note that his portfolio includes rum (finished in Cognac casks, natch) and Citadelle gin.

Gabriel mentioned that Spain is the number one market for Citadelle, and as a result he travels there frequently.

Only Spain knows how to make a gin and tonic,” he insisted. “They use a big glass, like a tumbler or a Riedel burgundy glass. They use a full mini bottle (about 1.6 ounces) and then the full bottle of tonic, so the proportions are correct. And lots of good ice, so it refreshes the drink but doesn’t dilute it down. They add lemon, lime, or around Christmas they add a little cinnamon, anise, or nutmeg.”

Say WHAT? To me, a G&T is served in a tall glass, maybe a squeeze of lime, and that’s it. But…nutmeg?

“Oh yes,” Gabriel assured. Further, he continued, in Madrid, there’s a restaurant named Padre, which brings around a G&T cart loaded with different gins (over 200 brand are available in Spain, according to Gabriel), and an array of spices for you to select for your drink. A good gin & tonic, Gabriel said, “should be like being in a garden of spice.”

The verdict:  It’s very good. Those who groove on the botanicals in gin will especially love the extra kick and aromatics that fresh spices add to the drink (note – skip the straw so your nose is all but immersed in the pretty fragrances). However, I’m not sure I’d describe this as the ultimate gin & tonic for me. I still prefer the long, tall, cool version.

That said — I can see the potential for adding fresh herbs and spices to G&T’s, Spanish style. I’m still dreaming about the cilantro-and-muddled-lime G&T I recently had at Bar Basque. (They don’t have a G&T cart, but they do have an intriguing G&T menu.)

Alexandre Gabriel’s Recipe for the Perfect Gin & Tonic

1.6 ounces Citadelle Gin

200 ml Fever Tree tonic

Lime or lemon skin (for just a little oil from the peel; not the full wedge)

Grated nutmeg, star anise, or cinnamon stick

In a large tumbler, stir together gin, tonic, and ice. Twist citrus peel over the drink and add to the glass. Garnish with spice and drink (no straw). And as per Gabriel, “Toast to the Spanish!”

Drink Recipe: Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice

Technically, it’s still summer for another couple of weeks. So I’m hanging on to that last shred of warm weather-worshipping with this cocktail, the Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice. Why I like this one:  the ice cubes are striking, and then as they melt the drink takes on a golden tone and a hint of sizzle.

Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice

Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice

This cocktail is inspired by saffron-infused cubes served at New York’s Pamplona restaurant, created by chef Alex Urena. I asked him why he infused the ice at all – let alone with saffron.

“It’s about the taste and the color,” he explained. “We chose saffron because it is very Spanish.” And why infuse ice? “Because the liquor doesn’t freeze.” Apparently, you can combine water and liquor together and then it will freeze, “but it won’t be as good as straight liquor.”  At the time, he was also experimenting with fruit-infused ice cubes too, making popsicle-like peach ice cubes to use in peach mojitos.

As usual, I can never have too much of a good thing, so I took his idea to double-dare level by spiking the ice cubes with hot habaneros! 

Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice

Yield:  1 drink

To make 1 tray of Spiced Ice Cubes: 

1 sliced habanero pepper

3 cups water

3 cups sugar

8 Saffron threads, crumbled

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boiling point. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about five minutes. Allow to cool, then remove the pepper and pour into ice cube tray. Freeze until solid.

To make one drink:

2 ounces gin (I suggest Old Raj, which is infused with saffron; or substitute your favorite gin)

4 ounces tonic

4 Spiced Ice Cubes

Pour gin and tonic over 4 “spiced ice” cubes in a tall glass and stir. Serve with a colorful swizzle stick.

© “Spice & Ice – 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.”  Photo credit:  Antonis Achilleos / Chronicle Books