Fizzy, cold and herbal - that's what we want out of our drinks this time of year. We're trying to break out of our gin and tonic rut, and for our spread of Memorial Day cocktails (all summer cocktails! all day!) we played around with our favorite lemon verbena syrup and a touch of orange blossom water. Orange blossom water is one of those dividing factors, in cocktails.
You can either hate it or love it. It has an intensely floral and citrus taste - almost like perfume. Too much and you've just ruined your drink. Just a few drops, though, can balance sweetness, making a sweet drink more complex and floral. We like it in strict moderation.
In fact, while we call for a half tablespoon here, but we suggest starting with a half teaspoon, sipping, and testing. You may like a little more, or not. We find that the floral notes in the orange blossom water complement and highlight the higher, sweeter notes of lemon verbena.
This is a subtle drink; it's not a big, exotic cocktail. It's delicate, faintly sweet, and tingling with flavors of herbs and flowers. It's just right for a cool spring day, accompanied perhaps by a little plate of goat cheese and pepper crackers.
Lemon Verbena and Orange Blossom Fizz
one 8-ounce cocktail
Small handful of lemon verbena leaves
1/2 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 ounce lemon verbena syrup
1 ounce gin
Lemon to garnish
Muddle the lemon verbena leaves with the back of a spoon in an 8-ounce glass, bruising them a little. Pack the glass with ice. Pour in the orange blossom water, syrup, and gin and stir. Top off with the soda water, stir, garnish, and sip.
(Images: Faith Hopler)