jam for cocktails

Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown aren't out in the garden as much in winter, but that doesn't stop them making jellies that can be shaken into luscious two-ingredient tipples.

There’s something about mid-winter cocooning: curled up with a good read, toasty socks and jumper, and a refreshing cup of something that reminds you there is hope for salvation at the end of the bleakly bitter tunnel known as winter.

Granted, some of us curl up with seed and plant catalogues, a ream of graph paper, an array of coloured pencils and hopes for what might be the start of an incredible bounty of botanicals, herbs, fruits, and other edibles to eventually be converted into drinkables. But what if you just want to lower the carbon footprint on your drink creations without getting your nails too dirty or devoting every waking hour to battling snails, slugs, and other garden rabble?

What if you want new ways to play with that bounty you purchased at the greengrocer? What if you have a freezer full of last year’s harvest and want to do something different with it? Curl up, dear reader, and consider these ideas.

Admittedly, we’re not on a health kick, but we have fallen in love with our grow-lit (grow-light lit?) miniature indoor garden. Bleak as it is outdoors, we have been planting and harvesting baby mint leaves, green and purple shiso, micro radish greens, baby basil leaves, pea shoots, and other delights that seem to pop up in less than a week on our window sill garden.

The self-contained set-up is a compact, plug-and-play operation like the kit from Garland Products (garlandproducts.com). Want to save electrical output?

There are LED versions of these grow kits on the market, too, such as the Aurolite Mini Garden. Arm yourself with a few packets of seeds from a reputable source such as Chiltern Seeds or Victoriana Nursery Gardens, a small bag of potting soil and a healthy imagination. And grow intensely aromatic mint blends for a twist on an Ivy Gimlet. Make purple shiso syrup with runny honey and a splash of lemon juice to stir one part syrup with three parts gin, garnished with a shiso leaf. A Baby Basil Smash, anyone?


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Here’s another winter pastime that keeps on giving. Take your hedgerow or orchard bounty out of the freezer and convert it into jellies that can be shaken into luscious two-ingredient tipples. The advantages are simple but maybe not that obvious – you gain back freezer space and reduce electrical usage, plus you gain a nice viscosity from the jelly itself in the texture of your drink.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to making jelly (not jam, which leaves little bits of stuff at the bottom of your cocktail glass): should you use apples or pectin for jellying?

Some practitioners simmer over a low heat a little more than a kilo of frozen fruit (berries, stone fruits, medlars) with two diced, large cooking apples, half a litre of water, and juice of a whole lemon for about 30 minutes. Tip into a jelly bag (if you haven’t got a jelly bag yet, they have a million uses and are available on Ebay and Amazon) and allow to strain overnight or for at least eight hours. Then, for every 600ml of liquid, add 450gr golden caster sugar and simmer on low heat until sugar is dissolved. Raise the temperature to a boil and cook until it reaches a jelly/jam setting temperature on a cooking thermometer.

Other practitioners boost the pectin content with 10 tablespoons of liquid apple pectin and forego the apples to ensure a proper set. Try both ways. There’s no set rule. Pour the finished mixture into sterile jars with lids and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. A heaping tablespoon of jelly in a shaker with the spirit and citrus of your choice over ice shakes up a fine drink. Add more sweetness with a splash of simple syrup, if you so desire. Fresh ingredients from your window garden and tantalisingly customised jellies at your fingertips.

That’s winter sipping sorted. Back to cuddling and cocooning until next time.