By Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef
In the midst of spring and blooming flowers, we come to appreciate the spring season not only for its weather but also to its contribution to our beloved liquors,foods, tisanes, and even medicines. Mostly liquor, however!
Most people are unaware of the botanicals used in everyday gin! You may be asking yourself what exactly do botanicals contribute to a gin, or maybe even, what is a botanical to begin with? A botanical, in layman’s terms, is simply the extracted particle of a plant that is used as an additive in liquors such as gin. This can include spices, herbs, flowers, roots, and fruits that either comprise the liquor in totality, or exist to just give a hint of flavor.
Great botanicals that enhance our experience when tasting fine gins are not just limited to alcohol. Botanicals range from the oregano on your pizza, to the black pepper on an expensive lobster. In fact, there a wide range of botanicals in food, many of them exotic, such as those found in Thai food. Thai basil is one of the key ingredients in nearly all of the very well known curry dishes. Some are not too far from home, such as cinnamon and other spices used in every day American culture, i.e. a cinnamon roll or a dusting of nutmeg on top of your daily cup of joe.
But this is still the tip of the iceberg. Though well integrated into the food and beverage industry worldwide, botanicals are also popular in the world of medicine! Herbs are very common. Many of them can be taken in the form of tea or tisanes. Marigold are consumable flowers are known to help with sunburn, acne, and skin problems. Parsley is also a very common and useful herb! It is reputed to have healing powers, and it helps with bad breath! So the next time you encounter someone with not so great breath, reach into your pocket and offer them some parsley!
Now when creating cocktails with botanicals, there is almost a never ending list of applications that can utilized. Botanicals can be made by steeping in a syrup; muddled with fruit or vegetables; they can be infused with spirits; blended, shaken, stirred, smoked, burned, or macerated. They are used to make bitters, aromatics, liqueurs, spirits, and ready to drink mixes. They can be used in their fresh form or when they are dried. They can be made into powders and mixed with sugar or salt to create a flavored rimmer or rub for your next bbq.
Some of my favorite botanicals that I use when creating cocktails include: cardamom, Mexican cinnamon, Vanilla de Papantla, cocoa nibs, hibiscus (sorrel), rose hip, pink peppercorns, toasted cinnamon, toasted black pepper, black cumin, rosemary, ginseng, turmeric, guacatay, avocado leaves and hoja santa just to name a few.