Saturday, December 7, 2013
I love a good cocktail, as my tagline on this blog says and as my colleagues in the newsroom will gleefully tell you as they proceed to tease me about drinking on the job.
No, I don’t have a bottle of Scotch hidden in my desk like reporters did in the old days. As a food writer, I actually do have to drink on the job sometimes.
Sample a maple syrup-inspired drink at Walter’s? Sure! Flight of tequila at Zapoteca? Sign me up!
My love for an expertly-crafted cocktail has little to do with getting a bit loopy. It has more to do with an appreciation for fresh, seasonal ingredients and bartenders’ seemingly endless creativity. A good bartender can take a premium vodka, some fresh raspberries or strawberries, a touch of fresh citrus, some mint or basil, and whatever else strikes a fancy and come up with a concoction that tastes like summer in a glass.
Maine restaurants are all over this trendy “farm-to-glass” culinary cocktail thing, although it’s not really new. (Bartenders back in the 1930s did the same thing.) Now we can admire their work in a collection of recipes and photographs just published by food writer Michael Sanders and photographer Russell French.
“Drinking in Maine: 50 Cocktails, Concoctions, and Drinks From Our Best Artisanal Producers and Restaurants” (Table Arts Media, $18) is the companion book to the second edition of “Fresh From Maine,” which is covered in today’s Food & Dining section.
If there is such a thing as “food porn,” well, this is “cocktail porn” at its finest. I can’t give you the entire recipe here, but let’s just say that they do something at Francine Bistro with beach rose petals, honey and Sweetgrass Farm’s rum that will get your endorphins humming without ever taking a sip.
And French’s accompanying photo is a culinary work of art.
The book is divided into seasons, and is interspersed with short profiles of Maine artisanal producers such as Allagash Brewing, Maine Mead Works and Urban Farm Fermentory.
In the spring section, you’ll find recipes for the Basil Gimlet from Hugo’s in Portland and the Bluezo, a blueberry cocktail from Trattoria Athena in Brunswick.
This Spirit of Maine Old Fashioned is a favorite of Bob Bartlett, who owns the Bartlett Maine Estate Winery and Spirits of Maine Distillery with his wife, Kathe. It’s made with their Pear Eau de Vie.
SPIRIT OF MAINE OLD FASHIONED
1 1/2 ounces Spirits of Maine Pear Eau de Vie
2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Splash of fresh lemon juice
Dash of bitters
Pear slice garnish
Put the eau de vie, bourbon, simple syrup, lemon juice and a dash of your favorite bitters into a cocktail shaker. Fill with cracked ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of fresh pear.
For summer, there’s the Cilantro Stinger from Caiola’s and a Basil Rickey from the East Ender in Portland. The Frog and Turtle in Westbrook contributed a Black Pepper Plum Mojito, which sounds like something Captain Jack Sparrow would drink.
In the fall section, you’ll find the French Fatty, made with Fatty Bampkins Hard Cider, from Petite Jacqueline, the French bistro in Portland.
I was delighted to find, in the winter section, the recipe for the Ginger Hot Toddy that warmed my insides at Boda last February.
Some of the recipes call for special ingredients like rosemary-infused honey, spicy herbed tomato water, ginger wild blueberry cardamom syrup, or cinnamon-infused bourbon. Fear not. There are instructions for making all of these things in the back of the book.
I can’t wait to try mixing some of these beautiful drinks. Who’s up for a party?
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod