Back in January 2011, I watched an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. It was a drink-based episode, and one drink stood out – the Herbaceous Mojito from Daddy O in New York. It sounded so refreshing and interesting, using house-infused cilantro vodka and roasted jalapeño simple syrup to create a spectacular cocktail.
Fast forward 2 weeks, and Ryan and I find ourselves stranded in Newark after missing our flight to St. Maarten. We decided to make the best of it, and decided to go to Greenwich Village, find the bar, and order the drink. The bar is fantastic, and it’s clear from the menu that the staff clearly knows its way around an expertly crafted cocktail. Though the drink isn’t on the menu, we ask for it anyway. This is clearly not uncommon, as we see the cocktail being created at the bar quite frequently. The drink is spectacular, perfectly balanced between sour, sweet and spicy. Though we first tried the cocktail in the dead of winter, it is perfectly refreshing in the summer. To tide me over until I get to go again, I created this recipe that closely approximates the drink. Though there are several components, it is well worth the effort.
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed, stems and wilted leaves removed
1 bottle vodka
Filter the vodka 10 times through a Brita water filter – this will make the vodka taste smoother. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While it comes to a boil, create an ice bath. Dunk the cilantro in the boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunge into the ice bath for about a minute. Spin it dry in a salad spinner, or dry the best you can using a lint-free towel or paper towels.
Stuff the cilantro into a large Mason jar. Pour the vodka over. Let the cilantro infuse the vodka for 2 to 2 and a half days – any longer and the cilantro will break down. Strain the vodka. Pour the vodka back into its bottle and store in the freezer.
Roasted Jalapeño Simple Syrup
5 jalapeño peppers
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
Preheat the broiler to high. Set the jalapeño peppers on a baking tray and broil until the skins are blackened, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a plastic container. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove lid. Peel the skin off of each jalapeño and set on a cutting board. Coarsely chop the roasted jalapeños.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir once to be sure the sugar is moistened. Over medium heat, without stirring, bring the mixture just to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the chopped roasted jalapeño peppers, including the seeds. Let steep for 5 minutes and taste. If the syrup has a strong amount of heat, strain into a glass jar. If the syrup needs more heat and flavour, let steep for 5 more minutes, or until desired flavour is achieved.
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir once to be sure the sugar is moistened. Over medium heat, without stirring, bring the mixture just to a boil. Turn off heat and let syrup stand for 10 minutes. Decant into a glass jar or squeeze bottle.
Makes 2 cocktails
4 lime wedges (1 lime)
2 handfuls of fresh cilantro
a generous amount of ice
2 tbsp (1 ounce) jalapeño simple syrup
2 tbsp (1 ounce) simple syrup
4 tbsp (2 ounces) cilantro vodka
1/3 cup (3 ounces) pineapple juice, fresh, if at all possible
1/3 cup (3 ounces) fresh lime juice
club soda (optional)
Fill 2 highball glasses with ice. In a large container or glass, muddle together the lime wedges and cilantro (if you don’t have a muddler, use anything with a sturdy handle and bash everything around). Add the muddled mixture to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, jalapeño syrup, simple syrup, cilantro vodka, pinapple juice and lime juice to the shaker. Shake until too cold to continue shaking. Strain into the highball glasses. Top each with a splash of club soda, if using. Garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro and serve.