When I was very young, my family lived in Los Angeles. There weren’t any kids my age on our block, and so I spent a lot of time on my own, exploring our multi-leveled backyard. I’d gather twigs, unripe plums, leaves from the jade plants, and a bark from the towering eucalyptus, heap them in a little plastic bucket, and steep them in water from the hose. I’d offer my “tea” to my mom, claiming it could cure whatever ailed her.
Fast-forward 30 years, and Emily Han and her new book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails, are here to teach us all that with a little bit of knowledge, there is much to be found in the natural world (both in LA and elsewhere) to be turned into a vast array of infusions, syrups, squashes (her creations are superior to my childhood concoctions in every way).
The book is divided into seven chapters. It starts with an introduction to wildcrafting, and offers insight into being a responsible and safe collector of roots, berries, seeds, nuts, and flowers. That section also includes useful information on how to process, preserve, and protect the things you gather.
From there, the book proceeds into the recipes. In Chapter 2, you’ll find the Teas, Juices, and Lemonades (I’ve got Emily’s recipe for Meyer Lemon and Bay Leaf Syrup marked for my annual meyer lemon extravaganza). Chapter 3 is devoted to Syrups, Squash, and Cordials (Rose Hip Whiskey Smash on page 65!).
In Chapter 4, Emily digs into Oxymels, Shrubs, and Switchels. The unifying force of this section is the balance of sweet and tart, and these recipes are for everyone who wants to start using their collection of exotic vinegars.
All of the Infusions, Bitters, and Liqueurs are in Chapter 5. There’s so much in this section that I want to make, but I think I’m going to start with the Winter Gin on page 115 (the thought occurs that it would make a mighty fine holiday gift for a certain subset of my friends and family).
Chapter 6 is all about Wines and Punches. As the weather cools, there’s nothing like a fortifying mug of Mulled Wine (page 157). And finally arrives Chapter 7, with it’s Fizzy Fermentations (yes, please!). Once my travel schedule quiets down again, I’m going to try to start my own Ginger Bug Soda Starter (page 162).
Emily has kindly allowed me to reprint her recipe for Classic Switchel and you’ll find it after the jump. It combines molasses, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and water for a bracing tonic. I like to dilute a little in a mug of hot water when I feel under the weather, but it can also be combined with cold water, fizzy water, or used in a cocktail. It’s a most versatile creation.
Oh, and one last thing. I’ve got one copy of this book to give away. Here’s how to enter.
- Leave a comment on this post and share a favorite homemade drink.
- Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, November 14, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, November 15, 2015.
- Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
- One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: Fair Winds Press sent me a copy of this book for review purposes, and is also providing the giveaway unit, both at no cost to me. All opinions remain my own. It’s a good book.
Originating in the Caribbean before making its way to New England, the switchel has developed into different versions over the years. My exploration has turned up an array of different ingredients and ratios—but, in general, a switchel was likely to contain the sweet, tangy, and spicy combination of molasses, vinegar, and ginger. Together, these components provide valuable minerals and electrolytes, which means that the humble switchel is a great alternative to commercially made sports drinks. Or, if you want to skip the workout and head straight to the bar, you’ll find that rum is a great partner for this bracing concoction.
- 2 tablespoons (40 g) molasses (preferably blackstrap)
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 cup (235 ml) water
- Combine the molasses, apple cider vinegar, and ginger in a jar or glass and stir to dilute the molasses.
- Add the water and stir to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to a day.
- The longer it steeps, the stronger the ginger flavor will be.
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the solids. Serve over ice.
This recipe is reprinted with permission from "Wild Drinks and Cocktails: Handcrafted squashes, shrubs, switches, tonics, and infusions to mix at home" by Emily Han. Published by Fair Winds Press, 2015.