The DIY Cocktail, Exhibit 2
By David Seale
During the pandemic, a lot of professional areas suffered, and small farmers certainly felt the impact of not being able to sell seasonal fruits and vegetables at open markets. A colleague of mine who is a regular fixture at a weekend farmers market selling produce from an insanely large garden in his backyard, was unable to use that venue and had to get creative in order to keep his product from literally rotting on the vine. Even then, he was forced to give a lot away to keep it from going bad before it could be enjoyed. Suffice it to say that I was a beneficiary of some finely grown organic produce, in particular, muscadines.
A few tidbits to know:
1. It is the only variety of grape that is truly native to North America. Those that wind up in a wine bottle in California were brought here at some point, but the muscadine is an American original. 2. There are numerous varieties of the muscadine, both purple and a greenish gold, the latter of which is referred to as a scuppernong. 3. The muscadine is the state fruit of North Carolina. 4. It can only really grow healthily in the deep south with its heat and humidity. 5. They are addictively delicious, but also contain within their skin cancer fighting components that are like grapes on steroids.
6. The skin is thicker than the grapes you buy at the grocery store, which makes for a better syrup.
7. In August and September, large grocery chains will usually carry muscadines.
So I found myself with several Ziploc bags of muscadines sitting in my freezer, and I was trying to think of a way to use them creatively and productively. I stumbled across a recipe for the Bramble, a gin-based cocktail that uses a blackberry flavored liqueur. And while I certainly dig on blackberries, I didn't have a freezer full of those. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but supply might be the stepmother, so I created a muscadine simple syrup. The ingredients are not complicated, but it is important that a sieve or a colander with small holes be employed because the muscadine does have seeds that you definitely do not want in your glass. My wife is more of a gin drinker and found this cocktail to be not just refreshing, as most gin cocktails are, but perfect for the summer. I agree and add that the homemade muscadine syrup tastes a lot better than the liqueur that a Bramble calls for. Something about using fresh fruit and dispensing with any additional chemicals makes for a heightened, cleaner experience.
2 oz gin
3/4 oz muscadine syrup
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
lemon wheel for garnish
Shake contents with ice vigorously and pour into a rocks glass over crushed ice.
To make the muscadine syrup
1. Bring 1 cup muscadines, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil, simmer for 5 min.
2. Pour all into a sieve or small-holed colander over a bowl.
3. Press fruit with wooden spoon or such so you get all the syrup, but no seeds or skin.
4. Let it cool, then store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Post-script: If you are wondering what to do with the extra muscadine syrup, try substituting it for cranberry juice in a cosmopolitan. Really tasty, and turns it into a "countrypolitan".. Or hell, drizzle it on some pancakes. It's good stuff.
David Seale in an amateur mixologist. He would go pro, but that would involve actually working; plus, he would lose his amateur status and couldn't compete in the Olympics.