The Clock Calm
Currant Gin & Tonic with Maraschino Liqueur
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I think it best if I keep this short. July has somehow gone roaring by and I'm not exactly sure what happened. I'm swamped with projects, not to mention the enviable summertime curse of bountiful produce and a limited number of days available to work with it. My parents are visiting, my kids are bouncing balls of pure energy, and deadlines are looming. Given the fact that life is bananas AND it was time for another Connecting Over Cocktails collaboration, I decided to do something to slow life down a little bit.
Clock calm is a term from sailing that refers to the absolute absence of wind. It's also called a dead calm, but that didn't exactly strike me as a good name for a cocktail. So plunk yourself down on a patio somewhere, pour one of these, and watch the world float by for a few minutes. Nowhere to go, nothing to worry about - just take a few minutes and enjoy. The drink is clean, simple, and incredibly refreshing. But given my aversion to overly sweet booze, it shouldn't come as any surprise that it's nuanced too. The currant-infused gin (more on that later) brings floral, herbal, fruity notes to the drink.
Sweetness comes from the maraschino liqueur and the tonic, along with bitter herbal components that, in my opinion, completely transform this into something special. I'm pretty proud of my cocktail creations, but this might be my favourite one yet.
Oh, and I will admit another reason that I called this a Clock Calm - when there's no wind, you just have to... (drumroll please) go with the currant. You're never safe from a dad joke.
Wildly simple to make, this drink is nonetheless a bit involved because it requires home-infused alcohol. Let's talk about that first, then the more common ingredients and variations that you can try out if you don't have access to red currants.
As far as I know, you can't buy red-currant infused gin. Fortunately, it's incredibly simple to make (assuming you have access to red currants and gin, that is). Red currants are in season in mid-to-late summer and can be found at better green grocers, fruit sellers, and u-pick farms. If you can't find them, don't worry - there are variations and options (see below).
Infusing gin with fruit is a wonderful old tradition and it couldn't be much easier. All it takes is a little bit of patience. I've written up a detailed recipe, but I'll also give a brief overview here. Wash the red currants and remove most of the stems and leaves. You don't need to be too finicky about this step, as you'll be filtering out the solids later on. Combine 250 ml (1 cup) gin with 100 g (3.5 oz, or ~1/2 cup, slightly mounded) red currants in a mason jar or other tightly sealing container. Use a spoon to gently mash the currants a little to help them release some juice, then set aside to infuse for 1 month, shaking every few days. When the gin is ready, simply strain out the solids before using. Currants tend to release a fair bit of pectin and pulp, so the finer the mesh on your strainer the better.
The finished gin will keep indefinitely, and can be used as you would any other gin.
Maraschino liqueur is pretty easy to find, yet a bit poorly understood. Named after the sour marasca cherries that are a key ingredient in the recipe, maraschino is rightly associated with that quintessential summer fruit. However, in much of the world the word maraschino evokes images of sickly sweet fluorescent red fruits used as garnishes, and this in turn has given maraschino a bit of an image problem. Maraschino liqueur does NOT taste overwhelmingly of cherry, and while it is sweet, it is not treacly syrupy stuff. Recipes vary of course, but Luxardo's maraschino (the brand I use, with it's beautiful cane-wrapped green glass bottle) has a grain-like quality with herbal notes and a lovely almond-like character. The sour cherry flavour is definitely there, but they're not the first thing you notice.
DO NOT USE maraschino syrup. I can't emphasize this enough. In fact let's just do that again. DON'T. USE. MARASCHINO. SYRUP. It's just artificially flavoured food-coloured corn syrup, and it doesn't belong in this cocktail (or any cocktail as far as I'm concerned).
This cocktail is a variation on the age old classic gin and tonic, so it's worth taking a moment to talk about tonic.
Die-hard G & T fans will already know this, but it's worth getting a common misconception out of the way early - tonic is NOT interchangeable with seltzer, club soda, or soda water. Even though it's sometimes called tonic water, tonic is basically a sweet soda with strong bitter elements. Tonic is traditionally made with chinchona bark (or the quinine that is extracted from the bark itself), and the herbal bitterness imparted by this ingredient is a defining characteristic of the drink. As luck would have it, the sweet-and-bitter flavour pairs beautifully with the botanicals found in gin - hence the classic combination. You certainly could make this drink with a combination of simple syrup and sparkling water or club soda, but it would be a very different cocktail. For more on that, see the variations below.
When it comes to buying tonic, I advocate for more traditionally made, small-batch stuff. You can find tonic in virtually any grocery store along side every other soda, but the cheap mass-produced stuff is not exactly my favourite drink. Without naming names, the big brand stuff is generally carbonated high-fructose corn syrup soda with quinine and a mixture of natural and artificial flavours. Cheap yes, but unremarkable. If I'm spending a month making gin, I think my cocktail deserves better. I used and loved Fentimans tonic water, which is made with quinine and a selection of very nicely balanced herbal ingredients. This old-fashioned English brand is readily available in most of North America (and, I would assume, the UK!).
They may only be a garnish, but it's worth talking about sour cherries. They're probably not going to be the easiest thing in the world to find (trust me - I hunt for these things every year), but if you can get them you should definitely use them. To clarify, sour cherries and sweet cherries are completely different beasts. Sour cherries are, unsurprisingly, rather sour when eaten as-is. They are not generally eaten out of hand, but are instead the go-to fruit for making traditional cherry desserts and sweets. Few people make cherry pie with fresh cherries any more, but that gooey and intense pie filling is the product of sweetened sour cherries, not sweet (e.g. Bing) cherries. Pitted and added to this cocktail, they make a wonderfully tart garnish that plays against the sweet tonic and emphasizes the luxurious maraschino.
If you can't find sour cherries, fret not. As usual, I'm all about giving options (again, see below). A single sweet cherry would be nice, albeit much mellower as a garnish. Alternately, you could garnish with a twist of lemon. If you have REAL maraschino cherries (i.e. sour cherries preserved in maraschino liqueur) they'd be very nice here too - but please don't use the aforementioned shockingly red sugary cocktail cherries. Or, hey, I'm not the boss of you. Go ahead and do it if you like them. Just... maybe don't tell me.
Alright, if you've made it to this point I'm hoping it's because your either a fellow tinkerer who can't stop tweaking recipes (high-five!) or because you really like the idea of this cocktail but you don't have access to red currants. Fret not! The idea of fruit-infused gin (or gin-infused fruit) is an old one and it invites plenty of experimenting. If you have sour cherries, you could double-down on the cherry theme here and use those to infuse the gin. Black currants would also make for a really wonderful and beautiful gin, with some wine-like notes on the nose. Honestly you could go in any number of directions, but I'm trying to give you the ideas that would work best with the maraschino. One particularly interesting idea I have (and fair warning, I haven't tried this yet) involves replacing the currants with halved raw cranberries. Infuse for one month, then go nuts with a wintry cocktail with similar sour/sweet/bitter profile. Maybe I'll call that one a Frozen Pond, in keeping with our still-water theme.
Now, what if you REALLY want to make this cocktail, but you don't have a month to infuse the gin? Well... you can't make THIS cocktail of course, but you can make a similar one. Use a little bit less gin and add 15 ml (1/2 oz) of creme de cassis, plus the usual maraschino liqueur. I don't have a name for that variation yet. Suggestions are welcome.
Connecting Over Cocktails
As I mentioned above, this cocktail was part of a collaboration with a wonderful group of Canadian food bloggers. Each of us has published a new drink today*, and I'm happy to tell you a bit about all of them here. I hope you'll check out their drinks, and their sites - these people are incredibly talented, and I'm happy to call them my colleagues, and my friends. Here are the amazing summer-fruit inspired cocktails they've dreamed up:
Jessica from Cooking in My Genes (a new and wonderful addition to our group) has a fantastically refreshing Cherry Bourbon Lemonade Smash.
Dana at Killing Thyme has a gorgeous and refreshing Blueberry Lemon Vodka Fizz
Samantha from My Kitchen Love has a ridiculously refreshing and summery Spiked Peach Iced Tea (it's a slushy! Woo summer!).
Justine from Justine Celina is a champion of all things rosé, and her Watermelon Frose Margaritas are here to rock your summer.
Jen from Mud On Her Boots is another member of the currant fan-club, and she's made a Honeyed Blackcurrant Cordial.
Bernice from Dish 'n' the Kitchen has embraced the heat with her Friday Flame, a fiery tiki cocktail.
There you have it! We're a slightly reduced group this month, as summer seems to be keeping us all a little TOO busy. Nonetheless, there are some definite cocktail gems in there for you to explore. Sit, sip, savour, and have a great summer.
Til next time - Cheers.
Nutritional information is given for a single cocktail.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Clock Calm - Red Currant Gin & Tonic
- 30 ml currant gin (see note)
- 90 ml bottled tonic chilled
- 15 ml maraschino liqueur
- ice cubes
- 2 sour cherries pitted, to garnish (optional)
- Place ice in a highball or old-fashioned glass.
- Pour gin and maraschino liqueur over ice, followed by tonic. Garnish with sour cherry and serve immediately.