The Clock Calm
Currant Gin & Tonic with Maraschino Liqueur
Share this Post
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.
“…the enviable summertime curse of bountiful produce and a limited number of days available to work with it” <— the bane of my existence, right there! If only spring and summer produce lasted as long as fall produce. Sigh.
I like the name of this cocktail, though I think Dead Calm would have *totally* worked! But that's coming from someone with a dark sense of humor, so hey. But the idea of lounging out on the patio in peace and quiet while sippin' one of these bad boys is a welcomed one. I'll definitely have to try infusing my own alcohol sometime. My husband did it years ago for a Halloween party, but he infused vodka with Skittles. Inventive, but not quite as elegant. Lol.
Ain’t it the truth though? Hah! It’s practically anxiety inducing… I mean, I have two flats of sour cherries, white currant juice for jelly, and macerated tayberries sitting in the fridge, all in need of preserving. I’m trying not to think about that too much right now.
I’m glad you like the name! I got a few mixed opinions around here, but I was committed to it. I liked it. And I suppose Dead Calm might have worked too, though it does have a certain ominous vibe. Perhaps a variation with absinthe, or something else suitably mysteeeeeerious. You definitely should try infusions – vodka is an easy and popular base alcohol because it’s so neutral, but gin can be incredible when you pick the right fruit to go with it. And no, I suppose Skittles wouldn’t be quite the same thing… definitely colourful though. Still, I think I’ll stick to tasting the rainbow in non-alcoholic forms. 😀 Cheers!
I love the idea of infusing my own alcohol and I think this will be the drink that I actually try my hand at this! The flavours of this cocktail hit all of the right notes for me, especially those sour cherries. And, like Dana mentioned above the name, ‘Clock Calm,’ is just perfect – I can picture myself truly just sitting and enjoying this cocktail on a peaceful summer evening. Cheers Sean!
Woo! Two for two on the name. Haha. I’m glad the flavours speak to you Jess. I’m a big sour cherry fan, but I didn’t want the cherry flavour to overwhelm here. Fortunately maraschino isn’t actually overwhelmingly cherry-tasting, and the sour cherries most add their magic when you pop them in your mouth and bite in. The currant, tonic, and gin all get to stand on their own legs. Which is perfect when you’re at the end of the day, and you’d rather get off of your own legs! Definitely a peaceful summer evening kind of drink. Cheers!
This is one boo-ti-ful cocktail! Very creative and well executed! I love the idea behind it. It at once feels old fashioned and yet hip. Great work Sean!
Thanks Samantha! I’m glad you like it. In the end it’s a fairly simple looking sipper, but I think that’s part of its charm. Glad you liked it – and as always, so happy to be a part of this group, and to see all the fine work you and the others do. Cheers!
Sean you’ve completely inspired me to try my hand at infusing some gin (or vodka… have to check the bar!) with some gorgeous black currants I picked up at the market this weekend. Thank you for always making your recipes accessible and giving such clear directions. I love the name of your cocktail and the elegance of the ingredients! Also, I appreciate the Dad jokes. Haha!
I’m so glad… on all counts! Most of all I’m glad you’re inspired to try infusing your own spirits. Getting people intrigued enough to try things… well that’s kind of my jam. Black currants can do a lot of wonderful things, so I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun with them. Actually if you’re interested, I have a recipe in the works (it won’t be done until the winter, which means it won’t be posted until next year) for homemade Creme de Cassis! Drop me a line if you want to know more about it.
As always, so wonderful to be a part of this little collaboration with you and the others. Oh, and I’m glad the Dad jokes go over well. 😀
So, update! I attended a Grey Goose event last night and was so inspired this morning that I infused some vodka with Saskatoons. Tagged you over on Insta Stories and directed people to this post if they want to try your method! 🙂
I saw that! Thanks a bunch Justine!! So glad that you got to give it a shot. I bet the saskatoons will be amazing – and very local, which I love of course!
Love the infused alcohol! I’ve done vodka a few times but never thought of gin! What was I thinking?!? This is definitely on my to-do list. Thanks for inspiring a new infusion!
Whew! I read the whole thing, probably because I am a tinkerer. lol. It just so happens that I have a huge pail of sour cherries in my fridge right now and I bet you can guess what is going down in my kitchen today (other than the blueberry pie that just came out of the oven!). So I need to know…what gin would you recommend? I have, um…several.
I am SO with you on the maraschino cherries…hahaha they actually make me gag. Though I do make my own cocktail maraschino cherries with either Luxardo or Bourbon and gift them to friends and sometimes even bartenders. Making friends with the bartender is always a good idea 🙂
Hey Bernice! I ALSO have a big tub of sour cherries in the fridge. Lol. I’m currently planning… several recipes. Haha. I’ve already made maraschino cherries with them (just like you, I’m making them with Luxardo, but I also have a batch of sweet cherries infusing in Rye) and a batch of cherries in white currant jelly… and I still have loads left. As for gin recommendations, I used Victoria Gin (the classic variety, not the oak-aged one) and I loved it. It’s kind of my go-to all-purpose gin, and it’s from Vancouver Island, which is cool. Any nice, balanced, juniper/citrus-forward gin should work nicely. I would avoid gins that are specifically bolder, barrel-aged, or more heavily focused on strong-tasting flavours. And yes – making friends with the bartender ALWAYS pays off. Cheers!
Making your own infused gin sounds fantastic! Plus never heard of maraschino before… had to google it! All sounds so dreamy in there! Spiced, fruity and boozy is always a great combination!
I think most people are familiar with maraschino cherries and have no idea that the name is connected to the alcohol, which of course was used to make the cherries before they became ‘cocktail cherries.’ It’s actually named after the Marasca cherry, a variety of sour Morello cherry used to make the liqueur. It’s a bit funny when you think about it – cherries make the liqueur, then the liqueur is used to make special cherries. I’m glad you like the combination – and thanks so much for taking the time to comment!
I love infusing spirits with fruits but I’ve never used red currants, thanks for the inspiration!
You’re welcome! Their tartness makes them nice to work with, as you can really control how sweet (or not sweet) your end product is. Black and white currants are equally wonderful to work with. Cheers!
Yes! Love this, and I completely agree about using well-made tonic water. I also use Fentiman myself and another similar brand as well. They make good stuff. I rarely drink tonic water, but if I do, I better make sure it’s a high quality one. This drink is right up my alley. Love it!
I don’t drink tonic that often either, but I get a craving for a good G&T sometimes, and then I’m glad to have access to the good stuff! I might even have another tonight, given that I still have a bit of the infused gin left. Glad you like the drink. Thanks for coming by Gabrielle!
I loved the Dad joke reference! I don’t drink alcohol but if you had any virgin version I would be whipping it up right away. I appreciate all the tid bits of knowledge you share in your posts. I learn something new every time I read.
Hi Kim! Glad you liked the joke. 😀
When it comes to virgin versions of the this drink you’d have to depart a little from the basic formula, but the tonic itself carries a lot of flavour, so it’s not impossible. I think your best bet would be to make a currant and sour cherry syrup, then to add that (not too much as you don’t want it too sweet) plus some sparkling water. If you really wanted to capture the gin flavour without the gin, you could add some juniper to the syrup as well. I think it’d be pretty lovely, actually!
Pleased I found this post of yours. I have an abundance of red currants and this year I MUST do something a little more creative with them and gin has to be the answer. Like you through, I didn’t want to make it a syrupy liqueur so good to know it’s possible. My question is, does the quality of gin play any part at all? Knowing there’s a gin-mania going on in the UK the choices are frankly ridiculous so my thought was that cheap gin would be ok… but would it really?
Thanks in advance, Laura.
Hi Laura! Great question! The red currants contribute quite a bit of flavour to the final product, so I’m inclined to say that an inexpensive gin should be fine. After all, you’re heavily modifying the gin itself, so worrying about single-origin artisanal gin with rare botanicals would be a bit counter-productive. In fact, I think you might be doing yourself a disservice by using a high-end gin that’s meant to emphasize subtle, carefully balanced ingredients.
That being said, it’s ideal if the gin you choose isn’t overly bitter or overwhelmed by harsh, poorly balanced flavours, as can be the case for some very cheap gins. Personally, I think any of the basic big-brand gins with a low-middle-range price tag is going to be a pretty safe bet. Of course taste is always subjective, and you are going to dilute the gin somewhat with the currant juice (though currants don’t produce a ton of liquid on their own), so I think you’re unlikely to end up with something unusable, even if you go cheap(ish).
Good luck! Love to hear how it goes. Cheers!
Cheers indeed and I will do, thanks Sean!