So many artisan ingredients, so little time. And only so many slices of toast slathered with even the best jam one can eat. But there's always cocktail hour.
Cocktails are also an affordable way to extend the serving life of pricier small-batch ingredients, as you're using only a teaspoon of that fig balsamic vinegar here and there. Better still, these are simple cocktail recipes that require no simple syrup or macerated fruit made in advance -- that's already been kindly taken care of by these Seascape strawberry-obsessed artisans.
Note: The artisan ingredients below can be ordered online; also look for them and other potentially great locally made cocktail ingredients at small local-food shops. (Tip: Cheese and wine shops are great hunting grounds.) Or if you're really in a make-it-now time pinch, Seattle-based Dry Soda has a juniper berry flavor rendition (photo above) with a delicate juniper flavor that's great with floral gins like Nolet's or Bloom. (You can find Dry Soda at well-stocked grocery stores.)
Tart Cherry Sour
High Desert's sour cherry confiture (a fancy name for jam) is so fantastically syrupy and full-flavored, it's almost like spooning up homemade brandied cherries, sans the brandy. Use the syrup in cocktails with a floral gin and garnish with the cherries. Better still, add a splash of Lolita bitters (tart cherries and Madagascar vanilla beans) from Highland Park's Bitter Tears.
1 ½ tsp. sour cherry confiture syrup + ¾ oz. lemon juice + ½ tsp. agave syrup or honey (1 tsp. or more if you prefer a less tart drink) + 2 oz. Nolet's or Bloom gin, shaken + 2 sour cherries to garnish
Orgasmo de la Boca's smoked olives are like olives on an apple wood trip -- not surprisingly, they are made in small batches in Venice Beach. Alessandra Innamorato usually packs them in olive oil, but you can buy a vacuum-sealed pack of smoked olives without the oil for cocktails on her website. With these olives, dry gin is essential, vermouth is optional and, sure, add a few drops of homemade herb-infused vinegar (tarragon, rosemary) for a bitters-like kick. (It's not so crazy; olive brine typically has vinegar.)
2 oz. dry gin such as Martin Miller's London Dry Gin + splash vermouth (optional), shaken, + 2 Orgasmo de la Boca smoked olives without oil to garnish
Three trends in one cocktail: The sweet tang of a vinegar-fueled shrub libation, a really great Los Olivos artisan olive oil/vinegar producer, and a gin from L.A.'s first (downtown) distillery, Greenbar Collective (organic and sustainable, too). Reduce any of Global Garden's fruit vinegars by half to temper the bite, let the syrup cool, then stir a teaspoon into a gin and tonic. Or try the syrup instead of the cherry confiture in the cherry sour recipe above. Global Gardens' Theo Stephan also suggests freezing the reduced fruit vinegars and plopping them into vodka, straight up, or a margarita (get the recipes in her recently released book, Olive Oil and Vinegar for Life).
Note: Tru Organic Gin is available in well-stocked liquor shops in L.A. (Wally's, High-Time, K&L).
San Diego Bloody Mary
When we don't have time to make our own Bloody Mary mix, we'd rather start the cocktail day supporting our brewing/distilling friends down south rather than those corporate cocktail-mix giants. Ballast Point's recently released version even has a little of its Calico Amber beer in the mix (sorry, the alcohol has been boiled off). All the more reason to substitute Ballast Point's flavorful Old Grove Gin for the more traditional vodka.
Blue Basil Ginrickey
What to expect from a former indie rocker and cocktail guru turned jam maker who also happens to be the general manager at El Cid? Cocktails, lots of bold (Flamenco-inspired?) cocktails made with Laura Ann Masura's terrific organic jams. Get a jar of her namesake blueberry basil jam and turn on the flamenco music. (Recipe courtesy Laura Ann Masura.)
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2 oz. Hendricks Gin + 1 oz. lime juice + 1 generous spoonful Laura Ann's blueberry basil jam (more to taste), serve over ice + top with club soda + basil to garnish
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