Cocktail culture has been going on for quite a few years, and even with COVID, I am betting that many people are making cocktails at home now. And looking forward to going out for cocktails with friends and family.
When you make cocktails at home, do you consider your garden as part of a cocktail recipe? It can be. In Cocktails, Mocktails and Garnishes from the Garden by Katie Stryjewski gives readers the ability to make classic cocktails and the confidence to craft innovative concoctions. Alongside recipes of some of the most popular cocktails (e.g. Sidecar) come new-inventions, non-alcoholic equivalents (e.g. a mocktail version of a Tom Collins), and instructions to create gorgeous garnishes from your garden (e.g. which flower would you garnish the Sidecar or Tom Collins? Katie gives suggestions).
I was given a preview copy of Katie’s book to review, in part because I do enjoy cocktails, and I enjoy gardening. The book is now available for purchase.
The book is divided into:
- Making Cocktails: The Basics
- Growing a Cocktail Garden
- The Recipes
Cognac (4 recipes)
Gin (18 recipes)
Rum (8 recipes)
Tequila (4 recipes)
Vodka (6 recipes)
Whiskey (10 recipes)
I was glad to see that the Cognac section was first and had a few cocktail recipes. I am a wine person, so seeing a cocktail that can be made from Cognac, immediately piqued my interest. I did hope to see some cocktails made with Sherry, but maybe that is for another book by Katie?
In the Introduction section, Katie takes you through her journey into the world of making cocktails, then a bit of the history behind cocktails starting in the 1800s. And then tells us about what to expect with classic cocktails in this book and the herbs that you could grow to complement your cocktails. A book that beginners can start their cocktail adventures.
In Making Cocktails: The Basics, Katie lays out 14 bottles, covering liquor, (e.g. cognac), and flavours, (e.g bitters), that are common ingredients to make the cocktails in this book and cocktails in general. For each of these bottles, she briefly describes how they are made, then offers suggested brands and a recommended brand. From these basics, she mentions the non-alcoholic components that can be added such as syrups and mixers (e.g. club soda) to complete a cocktail.
All cocktails should have some drama to them, and that comes from the mixologists’ tools, such as a shaker. Katie takes you through the tools that she recommends to help you with your home cocktail bar. Lastly, Katie talks about the techniques that go into making a cocktail, such as measurements, shaking or stirring the cocktail, and much more. There is an interesting section on ice cubes you should read. It is quite colourful.
Glassware is important for serving a cocktail, with different glasses for different types of drinks. Similar to wine, you would not pour sparkling wine into a Pinot Noir glass as all the bubbles would dissipate quickly. Katie takes you through several types of glasses and their cocktail pairing.
She finishes off with a garnishes section, which is where you can add some herbal or citrus or other zings to your cocktail. This can also make your cocktail more pleasing to the eye. You see the cocktail before you drink it, so why not grab your interest by making the cocktail visually enticing?
Our next major section is Growing a Cocktail Garden. If you have never gardened before, Katie takes you through where you can plant, soils, planting from seeds or cuttings, maintaining your garden, and harvesting from the garden and closing for the winter season. She describes 11 different herbs, 14 different fruits and vegetables, and 17 different flowers that can be used as an ingredient or garnish to cocktails that you can grow in your cocktail garden. Granted we have a variable climate between north and south, and between coastal and inland prairies, so you may not be able to grow everything in her list, but I think many are possible.
The Recipes is a large section where Katie has several recipes for each of the types of alcoholic beverages I outlined earlier. As an example, let me take you through the Cognac group of cocktails. Each cocktail is provided with a full-page colour picture of the cocktail with garnish and type of glass to use. The ingredients are listed on the left side of the page and to the right are the instructions on how to make the cocktail. For the garnish, she gives some suggestions, which you can add one or more. Her first drink in the list is the Brandy Crusta that she lists as a classic cocktail. There are 5 ingredients, a pro-tip, and straightforward steps. Each cocktail from my review is made of 4-5 different ingredients, so is not too overwhelming for the first-time cocktail maker. There are some cocktails that are more complicated, where she teaches you to make a “shrub”; a shrub is a concentrated syrup that combines fruit, sugar, and vinegar. But you can skip those till you feel more comfortable with the simpler cocktails.
There are also Mocktail options for some alcoholic drinks and on their own Mocktail recipes, in case there are some of your friends or family that do not drink alcohol, but like the cocktail vibe.
I am looking forward to trying out some of these cocktails with friends as soon as we get vaccinated and can start to meet again.