We're exploring twelve seasonally-inspired cocktail recipes this year alongside our candle subscription with writer, historian, and cocktail creative Al Culliton.
As we continue to look to the Labors of the Month for inspiration, April is giving us a little break from work after March’s pruning and unearthing. Though planting is a common Labor depicted for the month of April, I’m choosing to look toward the more pleasurable April scenes that often pop up in medieval calendars.
Flowers are an ancient symbol of spring, and they figure heavily in these April scenes. Sometimes people are shown tending to flower gardens or carrying bouquets, other times they are sitting on the grass in a group, surrounded by flowers. The overarching theme of these scenes is getting outside after the long winter has passed.
April: a woman holding a wreath of flower; Source: kb.nl
Flowers presage so much to come, be it the blossom of summer fruit or the wildflowers populating a meadow. They come out and see if it’s safe before everything else starts to grow. They give us beauty after the dark, gray days of winter. If a delicate flower can survive out there, then the earth has officially woken from its frosty slumber.
Our guiding Keap words this month are awe and reverence, curiosity and exploration. That first coupling — awe and reverence — is so intrinsically linked with this shift in the seasons. To think that ground that was hard from frost just weeks before could produce something so delicate, so perfect, seems almost miraculous every spring.
But that second coupling — curiosity and exploration — that’s about getting out there and feeling alive. Going out for an adventure because it’s 58ºF and staying outside until the temperature drops back into the forties and the sun fades. That feeling of getting cold on a spring evening because you’ve been out all day and you don’t have a proper jacket with you. That’s the stuff of happy memories.
April wildflowers; Source: Unsplash
Combining these two themes, one micro (flowers) and one macro (exploring), I’ve come up with the perfect cocktail for those early spring adventures. As a base for our variation, I chose an earthy and botanical cocktail: the White Negroni. This French version of the Italian classic relies on gin for juniper and other, often floral, botanicals. The bitter component comes from French gentian root liqueur, such as Suze or Salers. Often described as possessing “candied topsoil” notes, these products are deeply earthy and bitter, balanced with a pleasant sweetness (the level of which varies depending on the brand). Where the Italian version relies on Torino-style sweet vermouth in the aromatized wine slot, the White Negroni typically calls on quinine-infused apéritif wine Lillet Blanc.
Our Flora is a classic White Negroni with a couple of significant tweaks. First, we’re infusing gin with loose chamomile flowers to amp up the floral flavors already present in the cocktail. Second, we’re using blanc vermouth in place of Lillet. This lesser-known vermouth is a semi-sweet, herbaceous wine from the French Alps. Finally, to encourage rambling and adventure, the Flora is batched. Because the White Negroni is a stirred cocktail — its ingredients are all of similar viscosities and it doesn’t contain any juice — it’s very easy to make a batch that’s prediluted and ready to pour. All you need to bring is a few big cubes of ice, a lemon, and a vegetable peeler to make your garnish. Pack your knapsack and get your friends together! It’s going to be a good spring.
A batched, chamomile-infused White Negroni.
16 oz. batch (4-5 servings)
- 6 ¾ oz. chamomile-infused gin*
- 4 ½ oz. blanc vermouth
- 3 ½ oz. Suze
- 1 ½ oz. water
Combine all in a sealable 16 oz. jar or bottle. Seal and chill for at least 4 hours in the fridge. When ready to serve, pour over ice in Keap tumblers. For each, garnish with a lemon twist, expressing the oils and rubbing the peel around the lip of the glass before placing it in the drink.
CHAMOMILE-INFUSED GIN RECIPE
In a nonreactive container (glass or plastic, not metal), combine 1 cup London dry gin (such as Beefeater or Tanqueray) with 1 heaping tablespoon loose chamomile tea. Cover and steep for 3 hours. Strain through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Cover and store at room temperature until ready to use.
We'll be revisiting the bottles from this month in future months, so set up a nice little bar area for yourselves--we'll be mixing up drinks all year long!
What are Gentian liqueurs?
Gentian root is a common bittering agent in aromatized wines and bitter liqueurs, but gentian liqueurs, called gentianes in France, refer to a specific genre of French liqueurs. This subcategory of liqueurs originated in the Alps, where gentian is plentiful and inhabitants sought to capture the healthful properties of the distinctive roots, herbs, and flowers that grow there. Suze and Salers are perhaps the most recognizable brands, but Avèze and the gentian-infused aromatized wine Bonal can also be used to great effect in cocktails.
This month’s simpler recipe
Looking for a simpler twist or a non-alcoholic option?
- Simple recipe: Brew 6 oz. chamomile tea and allow to cool. Mix ¼ cup honey and ¼ cup hot water and stir. Allow to cool. Juice 2 lemons and strain out pulp. In a jar, combine 5 ½ oz. gin with 3 ½ oz. each of chamomile tea, lemon juice, and honey syrup. Pack a cocktail shaker, ice, and Keap tumblers. Shake mix from jar in batches, straining into tumblers over ice and garnishing with a lemon wheel.
- Non-alcoholic version: Brew 9 oz. chamomile tea and allow to cool. Mix ¼ cup honey and ¼ cup hot water and stir. Allow to cool. In a jar, combine 9 oz. chilled chamomile tea, 2 ¼ oz. lemon juice, and 5 oz. honey syrup. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve over ice in Keap tumblers. Garnish each serving with a lemon wheel.