She always loved a bargain, so if we could bring our own wine to a restaurant, that establishment was especially esteemed. I don’t remember how many years ago (maybe 15?), Mom took us to her favorite place, bottle of red in hand, for an Italian dinner near her home.
Conflict and confusion broke out almost immediately when the hostess explained that policy had changed and we were not allowed to consume our wine, but would be welcome to purchase a bottle from the restaurant’s new collection. Fine, we said. And then, she insisted we remove the offending bottle from the premises. Well. Mom put her foot down. She told the young woman that was ridiculous and stood her ground. Her opponent wouldn’t budge. I prepared myself to be hungry for a long time while we located another acceptable byo place.
But, my mother has never been one to tolerate starvation, so she conceded. Or so I thought. I walked her out to the car to stow the wine. And as she closed the trunk, I heard her say, “Well, she’s not gonna be happy about the martini in my purse”! I thought she was kidding. I should have known better.
Seated at a table for six, Mom proceeded to ask all her companions to drink their water. She then emptied her water glass into the partially empty glasses, fished out some ice, and reached into her big purse for a small jar.
Pouring her contraband gin over ice, she snagged a big, fat olive from the relish tray, plunked it into her martini, and took a big, satisfied, sip. Score, Judith!
So, I come by my love of gin honestly. And what better way to honor my mom than to try my hand at making my own version of our favorite spirit this week, when the juniper berries are ripe?
I chose high quality vodka, and went out to harvest fragrant branches from laden evergreens just up the road. I plucked about ¼ cup of berries and chucked them into a pint jar with a couple long pieces of lemon zest (I used a potato peeler, careful to take just the colored part of the rind), then filled the jar to the brim with vodka.
I let my infusion steep for 3 days, shaking occasionally. Some of my sources called for filtering the resulting spirit, but I decided to try it simply strained, instead. My logic was that more of the juniper and lemon flavor would be retained that way.
The gin was a rousing success, a lovely yellow color, just the right amount of bitter woodiness from the juniper, good hit of lemon on the finish. I popped the jar into the freezer so I could enjoy it the way I always prefer my gin, syrupy-cold. Delicious.
Special thanks to my hand models, Bob and Brian (who has fled the country to Australia since these photos were shot). And super-special props to Megan, the best bartender ever, for suggestions, taste testing, and general awesomeness!
This post is dedicated to Mom, who is currently recovering from a stroke and subsequent brain surgery. She is unable to eat or drink right now, but we are all hoping that she will be able to enjoy a martini again soon. Until then, I hope you will join me in drinking a hearty toast to her!