The matchbook girl… mixes a mean cocktail. Are y’all familiar with Matchbook Magazine? A self-proclaimed “field guide to a charmed life,” it’s a digital magazine, and a treat I eagerly anticipate reading every month. Fresh and witty, it manages to combine the polish of a more traditional print magazine with the immediacy and relevance of a blog.
While every issue is filled with a host of beautiful layouts and well researched articles, one in particular caught my eye in last month’s (February) issue. In a clever nod to the resurgence of the classic cocktail’s popularity, the girls at Matchbook introduced a new “How to…” series, this time highlighting how to stock your bar cart. The article has suggestions both practical (tools and ingredients to have on hand) and whimsical, “why don’t you use a giant shell instead of an bucket to ice your champagne.” They even include a list detailing the drink of choice of icons such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Queen Elizabeth II. Now, due to space limitations (hello, city living), our bar cart is currently more a combination bar/espresso machine/cutting board storage cart, but I take great pleasure in keeping the basic accoutrements on hand for concocting a simple cocktail when a craving hits.
I’m a big believer in the beauty of a well-crafted cocktail, but well-crafted does not necessarily imply that the process need be complex, nor does it always require a long list of ingredients. Generally speaking, cocktails in the sour family (margarita, whiskey sour, sidecar, gimlet, etc) are relatively simple to prepare at home, without skimping on flavor. A small but significant step up from the mixer + spirit formula, the basic formula for a sour is simple enough: spirit + simple syrup (or liqueur) + citrus juice (generally lemon or lime). Naturally, in anticipation of the Mad Men season 5 premiere (tonight!), I felt it only appropriate to share a modern twist on a classic sour (the gimlet) that would not be out of place in the inebriated hands of our favorite characters.
I adore this floral twist on the classic gimlet. To really punch up the floral notes I recommend using Hendricks gin, but any gin you enjoy the taste of (I used Bombay Sapphire here to no ill effect) should be great!
Adapted, slightly, from the St. Germain website
2 parts gin (Hendricks, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, and Beefeater are all great choices)
1 ½ parts St. Germain
1 – 1 ½ parts freshly squeezed lime juice
lime wheels for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker to the brim with ice and add all ingredients except the lime wheels. Shake vigorously til condensation appears on the outside of the shaker.* Strain and serve up in a martini glass or glassware of your choice. Garnish with a lime wheel.
*Alternatively, one can stir this cocktail vigorously with ice (a cocktail spoon makes quick work of it), though traditionally any cocktail involving citrus is shaken, not stirred.
You can substitute vodka for the gin if you prefer, but unless you don’t have it on hand I would strongly suggest you stick to the gin as it has a certain floral element that complements the St. Germain in a lovely way.
St. Germain can be a bit tricky to track down (neither my local Safeway or Trader Joes stock it) but it can generally be found at better liquor stores or BevMo.
I like my drinks especially tart, so I go pretty heavy on the lime juice (1 1/2 parts for me!), for those with less of a predisposition towards all things tangy, try it with 1 part lime juice and add more to taste.
After a lot of persnickety searching, and lamenting over the lack of quality amongst the available options, I’ve finally found my favorite cocktail shaker. It’s solidly built, has clean lines (no tacky artwork), and so far has shown no signs of wear (I’ve had mine for a couple months and use it regularly). As a former bartender, I’m a big fan of the Boston shaker (versus a cobbler shaker), as when used properly it’s far less messy and more efficient to use. I’d also recommend this cocktail strainer (you’ll need one if you’re using a Boston shaker). Confused as to how to use a Boston shaker? This short video should help clear things up (it’s easy, I promise).