At this late stage in the season, there’s little action occurring on the PFruits balcony. Everything’s been cut back, pulled up, or put to bed. Everything except Franklin (the) Mint, who is still doing well in solitary confinement, and the scented geranium I put in mid-season to replace the monarda that crapped out before bothering to bloom.
In addition to being gratifyingly green so late into the fall, the geranium’s feathery, leathery leaves give off such a gorgeous, complex scent–floral rose, spicy lemon, astringent pine–when I brush up against them that I felt driven to capture it somehow before the frost finally does the plant in. Having just gone out and tousled it to see get another hit of its smell, I’m now sitting here in front of the computer with my hands up my nose like Mary Katherine Gallagher, breathing in the fabulous scent.
Many people use the (non-toxic, I checked) leaves of scented geranium to flavor sugar for use in baked goods, and I’ll probably do that as well, but why infuse sugar when there’s VODKA? I mean, honestly. So, after cutting a few leaves, giving them a good wash and air-dry, I gently clapped them together in my hands to release the oils and plopped them in about a quart of vodka.
This, by the way, represents the cutting edge of herbal cocktail science. Apparently, today’s mixological cognoscenti clap or spank their herbs gently rather than muddling them so as to pull the essential oils to the surface but not break them up to the point that the bitter green plant flavors come to the fore.
Continuing this quest to pull the flavor of the oils and not of the green chlorophyll-y leaves itself, I only steeped the leaves for about 24 hours. Much longer than 48 and those bitter green flavors will emerge even if you’ve only given your leaves the gentlest of spankings. The upside, though, to all this cosseting of the vegetation is that your fabulous herbal infusions are ready almost instantly.
Then, though, came the question of what to do with it. By itself, the vodka still burned like vodka, but sparkled with the flavor/scents that the geranium did. While it was fairly obvious I’d need to add some fruit, sweetness, and a little acid to the party since the geranium’s pungency all falls fairly high on the nose, I wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish all that without drowning it out.
After much tinkering and subjecting friends to teacups with teeny amounts of this, that, and the other combination of things, I think we came up with a lovely, if slightly unseasonal, beverage. It’s lovely and delicate, with the wonderful complexity of the geranium enlivened by the sparkling water and rounded out with a touch of lemon and just a few drops of rich, fruity Chambord. Of course, it really begs to be sipped at a garden party, so unless there’s an orangerie somewhere in your general vicinity, this one goes out to all you Southern Hemispherians… at least for now.