Lavender Lemonade

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Often, for me, the enjoyment of cooking meals and creating drinks comes in the process rather than the final product. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy more than my fair share of the final product.) But there’s something really soothing to me about spending a afternoon puttering around my kitchen. I like to do it with music playing and the back door open, with dogs wandering in and out.
And I especially like creating food that smells good. I know this is weird, but I don’t enjoy things like roasting cauliflower or searing fish as much because even if they taste amazing, the smell doesn’t fit with my pleasant cooking experience. (By the way, totally know that I’m crazy.)
So, it should come as no surprise, that I’ve become obsessed with making lavender simple syrup for cocktails. The fragrance of the boiling lavender makes my entire home smell like a field in Provence. Then, the final product gives cocktails a fresh and floral flavor that’s perfect for cool summer drinks. Want to try it for yourself? Here’s how:
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Boil one cup of water, half a cup of sugar, and two tablespoons of dried lavender buds for a few minutes. Then, let it steep for about half an hour. Finally, drain the lavender from the water. I pour it through a paper towel. You lose some that way, but it’s the only sure way I’ve found not to have any lavender particles in the syrup.

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Next (and most important) step: Cocktail. My favorite is an easy mix of 2/3s lemonade, 1/3 vodka (Tito’s), and a splash of the lavender simple syrup. Chill and serve in martini glass—garnishing it with a lemon or a sprig of lavender. (This mix works well pre-mixed in a pitcher for groups.)

Sweet Potato Simple Syrup

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Last night I had this aptly named “Dirt Candy” cocktail at Charlotte’s The Asbury restaurant. It was made with Cardinal Barrel Rested Gin, orange and cardamom, and sweet potato simple syrup. And was just as amazing as all that sounds.

After drinking it, I had a brilliant idea (as is usually the post-cocktail case): Why not use this magical sweet potato simple syrup in place of regular simple syrup in my favorite drink, an Old Fashioned? This version would have the extra-autumnal flavors of sweet potato with all my favorite things (bourbon and cherries).

So, now I have big plans. Sound good to you too? Here’s the recipe for sweet potato simple syrup*:

Roast a medium-sized sweet potato in the over until soft. Place 1/2 cup of it in a saucepan with one cup of water and 3/4 cup of sugar. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring as sugar dissolves. Let the syrup cool before pureeing it and straining through fine mesh. Refrigerate and then drink up.

*Alternate, easier plan: Go to The Asbury and order this drink.

Recipe: Strawberry Basil Martini

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I got a quick tutorial for how to make a Strawberry Basil Martini the other day at WP Kitchen + Bar. It seemed like the kind of knowledge I should share:

Step one: Chop up four fresh strawberries and muddle with several leaves of basil. Step two: Pour in 3.5 ounces of vodka (preferably Ban). Step three: Pour in 3 ounces of simple syrup. Step four: Shake vigorously with ice. Step five: Strain into glass with sugar rim and strawberry garnish. Step six: Drink and repeat.