We're exploring twelve seasonally-inspired cocktail recipes this year alongside our candle subscription with writer, historian, and cocktail creative Al Culliton.
If you’ve been following along with these dispatches, you’ll know that we’ve been celebrating the seasons this year with a look at the Labors of the Month, a visual cycle popular in medieval art that depicted scenes of agrarian life. And each month, we’re making a different cocktail that brings together that month’s Labor, Keap’s themes, and the Seasonal candle scent.
In August we move further into summer and start to see the beginnings of the traditional harvest season. Last month, the wheat harvest popped up in our medieval calendar sources, and now the threshing of wheat becomes the focus — a process wherein the dried stalks are beaten to separate the grain out for storage. As with July, we see a theme of preparing for the cold weather months during the height of summer.
Lammas Day bread baking. Belgian psalter, mid-13th century; Source: Getty.
At this time of year, the harvest required much labor but was also at the center of a series of celebrations. The harvest was woven into medieval religious life, a product of the melding of Christian, Roman, and ancestral religious traditions. Two important days marked August’s harvest: Lammas Day and the blessing of the “first fruits'' or “new fruits.” The former, celebrated on the first day of August, is when the first grains from that year’s harvest were used to bake the bread needed for the Mass. The latter was a ceremony in which the newly harvested fruit, often apples, was blessed and given over to the church to feed the clergy and the poor.
Our Keap themes this month — gathering, self-love, and planting — connect to this month’s medieval history lesson in that there’s an underlying concept of caring for ourselves and our community. In the idea of planting, we recognize the cycle of sowing and reaping throughout the year. This cycle can also reflect the way we invest in ourselves and our community, seeing the rewards of self-love and connection in the process.
For this month’s cocktail, I wanted to utilize one of my favorite fruits from August’s bounty: peaches. I love stone fruit in all its forms, and peaches, apricots, nectarines, and plums all work well in drinks, be it in the form of shrubs, juices, liqueurs, or fresh. Our Lapis cocktail — Latin for “stone,” a nod to the pits in this family of fruits — is a smoky peach Smash with mezcal, mint, agave, and earthy gentian liqueur.
The Smash was a popular drink beginning in the 1830s, and its evolution has continued on through the present day. I like to make my Smashes with citrus, herbs, fresh fruit, or shrubs and pile them high with crushed ice. I pay special attention to the presentation, lining a rocks glass with citrus wheels and garnishing with a big bouquet of herbs. To me, this is an ideal drink for the hottest month of the year. ike a peach that’s been thrown on the grill and spritzed with fresh lemon juice, it captures the energy and sunshine of August.
A smoky summer Smash with mezcal, lemon, peach, mint, and agave; kind of like if a grilled peach jumped into a cocktail.
- 3 thin lemon slices, plus 3 more for garnish
- 8 mint leaves, plus a mint bouquet for garnish
- 3 peach slices
- 1½ oz. Mezcal
- ½ oz. agave nectar
- ¼ oz. gentian liqueur
In a shaker tin, muddle mint leaves, 3 lemon slices, and 3 peach slices with the agave syrup and gentian liqueur. Add mezcal. Fill three-quarters up with regular ice and shake hard for 5 seconds. Arrange 3 thin lemon slices on the inside of a double rocks glass, overlapping slightly. Fill halfway with crushed ice to keep lemon slices in place. Strain the drink into your prepared glass and add more crushed ice. Add a straw if you wish and garnish with a bouquet of mint, slapping it a couple times before placing it in the drink. Mound more crushed ice on top and serve.
WHAT IS MEZCAL?
Mezcal is a distilled Mexican spirit made from the agave plant. Mezcal is actually the umbrella category under which tequila falls. Mezcal can be made from a whole host of agave species, many of which are wild, rare, and cannot be cultivated. It can be produced in any one of eight different states within Mexico. Because of the traditions around mezcal production, it is often roasted over fires in large pits dug into the ground, which gives it a distinctive smoky flavor. It is a very popular ingredient in modern cocktails.
This month’s simpler recipe
Looking for a simpler twist or a non-alcoholic option?
- Simple recipe: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle 3 peach slices and ¾ oz. agave nectar or simple syrup. Add ¾ oz. lemon juice and 2 oz. mezcal. Shake for 15 seconds. Fine strain into a Keap tumbler over ice.
- Non-alcoholic version: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle 3 peach slices and ¾ oz. agave nectar or simple syrup. Add ¾ oz. lemon juice and shake for 15 seconds. Fine strain into a Keap tumbler over ice. Top with 2 oz. soda or ginger beer.