Autumn’s bounty yields many opportunities to add new twists to old favourites. Anistatia Miller & Jared Brown are out in their garden among nature’s finest.
Harvest time... There are so many options, it’s hard to know where to begin. We recently purchased a juicer. The debate rages about centrifugal versus masticating/slow/cold-press juicers. Centrifugal gives you a bit of froth and supposedly reduces nutrients and is far faster, but is not so good for leafy greens and berries.
Both transform apples and pears into outrageously good drinks. Our current favourite is apple with a bit of ginger, juiced and combined with a shot of gin or dark rum in an ice-filled highball. Booze and juice. It is astonishing that this trend hasn’t latched on in the UK – it’s been going for ages in Australia.
Beyond that, the hazelnuts are everywhere and it is time to resurrect a Martini garnish from the 1930s – hazelnuts soaked in maraschino liqueur. If you don’t have hazel trees, you can find raw hazelnuts in many markets at this time of year. We dry roast ours. We put them in a skillet with no oil or butter and roll them around in the pan over medium heat until we see them take on a bit of colour.
Then we let them cool, put them in jars and fill the jars with maraschino liqueur. The maraschino is definitely not wasted in this recipe as you can use a spoonful of it in drinks you are garnishing with these hazelnuts. Try a Martinez this way. It’s so good.
The pink gin trend seems set to remain and even defy the seasons. The trouble with pink gin in the shops is that pink colour from fruit is not shelf stable. Thus, artificial colour is used to create it. (This is why there is not a pink gin at Sipsmith.) However, the best pink gin is made, not bought, and is one of the simplest of all garden-to-glass creations. Place 250-300g of autumn raspberries in a mason jar. Add a bottle of gin. Let it sit for 10-14 days. Voila! Wonderfully pink and delicious and still definitely gin. While the colour from raspberries has proven shelf stable, other fruits such as strawberries and rhubarb give a fleeting blush that fades to coppery tones all too quickly.
Raspberry infusions can be accentuated with all sorts of other ingredients if you like. Try adding lemon peel or lemon slices. The result will definitely need a touch of sweetening, either in the mix or in the final drink, as the lemon will make it a bit tart. However, you can create a lovely raspberry and lemon gin this way.
We let the birds have a share of our redcurrants and blackcurrants this summer. The fruit was good, but we were even more interested in the leaves. They’re dehydrated now, in one of the £48 dehydrators we bought from John Lewis. They are easy to use.
Simmer a handful of leaves in equal parts sugar and water over low heat for 30 minutes. Set it aside to cool. Strain and bottle. You can also make a strong tea from these leaves, chill it and add to punches. We are opting for 90-minute damson gin and damson Irish whiskey this autumn with the ample fruit from our trees, mostly because we had company coming and the summer drought brought on an early harvest. Instead of placing the raw fruit in jars with spirit to macerate for months, we cook it down with water and sugar, then strain it through a jelly bag. What comes out of the jelly bag is a damson syrup. Combine equal measures of syrup and spirit and you’re done. Even sloe gin is as simple as that. So is cherry bounce (a centuries-old rum-based cherry liqueur). This should work as well with pears, but so far the pears that make it from tree to kitchen are eaten immediately.
We gained a new understanding of Professor Jerry Thomas’ 1862 gin and wormwood recipe just in time for autumn as well. While a fresh infusion of Artemisia absinthium is done in an hour and unpalatable after two hours, dried wormwood is much more forgiving to work with and far more readily available. If you haven’t grown any wormwood this year, you can find it dried on Ebay (buy Artemisia absinthium not vulgaris). Add a handful to a bottle of gin and strain it out after 24 hours. The flavour it adds to gin – creamy and sweet with a bitter punctuation at the finish – is remarkably similar to fresh and perhaps even a touch better.
One of our new faves is Hot Buttered Applejack in hollowed apples. We haven’t tried lightly baking the apples prior to pouring the delicious mix into them. That’s next. Applejack handles classic hot buttered rum batter at least as well as rum does. Admittedly, one of our worst nightmares would be being asked to serve 50 or 100 of these drinks in lightly baked apples so we are glad to report that the drink is equally good in an Irish coffee glass with a grilled apple garnish.
Pumpkins also make a great vessel for service. We got into using mini pumpkins ages ago for curried pumpkin soup with grilled prawns – a dead-simple dish. Then we saw Tony Abou-Gamin from Las Vegas serve eggnog in a big pumpkin, which makes a striking punch bowl. You can get a great flavour from the flesh by baking the pumpkin a bit or searing the inside with a kitchen torch, too. Try this for serving Tom & Jerrys. You can even work a bit of roasted pumpkin meat into the drink. It is funny that bartenders have spent a lot more time working with avocado, which rarely hits the mark in a cocktail, than with pumpkin meat which is a versatile and sweet flavour. OK, you risk getting compared to Starbucks if you roll out anything with spiced pumpkin. However, you have an instant advantage if you are actually using pumpkin instead of pumpkin syrups and flavourings. But that really goes for anything from garden to glass.