Mechanics might look at a car part and ask themselves, “How can this new device here make an automobile run better?”
Porn stars probably look at sex toys and ponder, “Would this vibrating pink leather whip make my next scene look more kinky?”
I often see ingredients on a shelf and think to myself, “I wonder would that work in a cocktail and how fucked up would it make me?”
Not so long ago, I started having more and more of those types of thoughts. They were brought on by an encounter I had with the chef, Enda McEvoy. He heads up The Cook Wild Project, where people get together to forage for fresh ingredients round Ireland and cook them up in wicked meals.
Enda also had a stint in Noma in Copenhagen, now regarded as the world’s no. 1 restaurant. Every morning, all the chefs hit the local woodland and beach areas on the hunt for produce that they use that very day on the menu.
Back in May, Enda was invited to The Sugar Club by the For Food’s Sake crew to give a chat about his work in Noma and what he’s been up to since then. When he started talking about the large array of local wild produce here, I said to meself, “I wonder would that work in a cocktail and how fucked up would it make me?”
So when the time came for me to come with up five cocktails for a competition, I decided I would endeavour to find some wild Irish ingredients and incorporate them into some tasty mixed beverages. Yet when you’re a total urban degenerate such as I, there were certain restrictions. Like how the hell am I gonna be able to find wild, unfarmed delights when I’m stuck in town 99% of the time? But luckily for me, help was at hand with some great friends. Ed Hick had given me a 2 litre bottle of elderflower cordial recently. He had picked the flowers around Bray head. He also gave me some wicked Sloe gin with sloe berries that were picked in Inismaan back in October and had been sitting in the gin since then, drool…..! And as if that weren’t enough, he had just been down in Wicklow picking wild frockens, otherwise known as wild bilberries or blueberries and gave me a big punnet of them. I had never tasted these before and it was a revelation, they’re like more intense blueberries and right now is the perfect season to pick them, all round Ireland. Free blueberries that normally have to be flown in from Chile? Nice!
I also badgered, pestered and seriously wrecked the heads of my For Food’s Sake colleague Aisling Rogerson, Karen Liston, Liam @ Evergreen, the aforementioned Enda McEvoy and many, many others on Facebook and Twitter. Between all of them, I managed not just to get fantastic advice but I scored some Juniper berries and pine needles from Tipperary and home grown rhubarb from Rialto.
Once I had all ingredients at hand, I set about fusing them all with lovely bits of gargoyle – namely ABSOLUT Vodka, Jameson Whiskey, Cork Dry Gin, Havana Club 3 Year Old and Mumm Champagne. I am quite chuffed with the results. Meeting Enda and learning about his approach to food was very enlightening. All I wanted to do with the drinks below was to incorporate some of what he had imparted onto us that night and celebrate amazing wild Irish produce.
LOUGH DERG MARTINI
Apparently the juniper berries and pine needles I used in this wee drink, came from trees along the shores of Lough Derg in Tipperary. I hope that’s nowhere near where Féile used to take place, as that area must be still be an environmental catastrophe.
Half the berries were soaked in Cork Dry Gin and the other half were pickled in malt vinegar. The pine needles were infused with sugar syrup, they counteract the coriander syrup really well.
- 5 gin soaked juniper berries
- 5 pickled juniper berries
- 50ml of Cork Dry Gin
- 50ml of de-carbonated Schweppes tonic water
- 15ml of coriander seed syrup
- 15ml of pine needle syrup
- Maldon smoked sea salt
- Chill martini glass.
- Lightly muddle juniper berries with the two syrups, just for about 10 seconds.
- Rim the martini glass with some pine needle syrup and then some smoked sea salt.
- Add the gin, tonic and some ice into the shaker. Shake vigorously.
- Double strain into the glass, serve.
ED HICK’S WHISKEY ELDERFLOWER
A week rarely goes by in my house where we don’t dine on some of Hick’s pork products. Ed and his brother Bren make the best sausages in Ireland and cure and smoke amazing bacon and ham. Ed is also mad keen on wild Irish ingredients. This is what I did with the elderflower cordial that I didn’t demolish after Body & Soul.
The Bunratty Mead is a honey based liqueur. Together with the elderflower they balance the sharp, salty preserved lemon. The whiskey gels it all together to make a very Irish, sweet and slightly savoury cocktail.
- 35ml of wild Irish elderflower cordial (you can buy some if you can’t pick the flowers and make your own)
- 50ml of Jameson
- 25ml of Bunratty Mead
- 1 slice of preserved lemon (you can get these in Halal shops)
- Chill a martini glass with some ice.
- Cut the lemon into small pieces, remove any pips.
- Place lemon in shaker with elderflower cordial and stir quickly.
- Pour the whiskey and mead into the shaker, drop in some ice and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds.
- Strain and pour. If you prefer not to have any little bits of lemon, double strain it.
WILD IRISH DAIQUIRI
The people of Ireland have been enjoying frockens/bilberries/fraughans for centuries. In fact, there is an old Pagan tradition to go foraging for them on the last Sunday in July, when they are at their peak. That’s only a week away folks, so you have been warned.
I am happy to say that they go beautifully with Havana Club 3 Year Old rum. Ordinarily, one would use a sugar to sweeten a daiquiri but for this one, I stayed more local and opted for Highbank Orchard syrup. Aisling practically lived on this gear when she did the Eat Only Irish Week, it tastes fucking deadly and made with their own homegrown apples.
- 2 tablespoons of frockens (they are all over Ireland at the moment)
- 35ml of Havana club 3 Year Old
- 20ml of Highbank Orchard Syrup
- 10ml of freshly squeezed lime juice
- honeysuckle to garnish
- Combine all ingredients in a blender with about 4 ice cubes. Blitz and pour.
- Garnish with some fuchsia honeysuckle.
INISMAAN SLOE GIN PUNCH
Sloe berries that were picked on the Aran Islands back in October and immediately placed in Cork Dry Gin. If the very thought of that doesn’t give you a mouth-gasm, then go fuck a duck.
I was extremely careful about how to approach this AMAZING Sloe Gin. The teeniest drops were added to various bits and bobs, eventually I discovered that it compliments nice cloudy apple juice really well.
- 50ml of Sloe Cork Dry Gin
- 5 gin soaked sloeberries
- 25ml of ABSOLUT
- 50ml of Highbank Apple Juice (or other Irish pressed apple juice)
- 10 ml of Highbank Orchard syrup
- Muddle two sloe berries with the syrup very lightly for just a couple of seconds in your shaker.
- Combine with ice and all other ingredients.
- Shake for 30 seconds.
- Pour into a small rock glass and garnish with 3 speared sloe berries.
RHUBARB AND ELDERFLOWER BELLINI
This was as local as I could get for a champagne cocktail – rhubarb from a garden in Rialto and elderflower from Bray. There’s a little bit of ABSOLUT in there to liven it up a tad. In fact, adding vodka to anything is always a capital idea in my book.
There will be enough here to do you for the whole bottle of bubbly.
- 1 stick of Irish rhubarb, very much in season at the moment
- 70 ml of wild Irish elderflower cordial (you can buy some if you can’t pick the flowers and make your own)
- 70 ml of ABSOLUT vodka
- 1 chilled bottle of Mumm Champagne
- Get a blender and blitz the rhubarb, elderflower and vodka into a puree.
- Place a tablespoon of the puree into a champagne flute and top it up with the bubbly, a little bit at a time.
- Garnish each glass with a small stick of fresh rhubarb.
If you have any questions about any of these, do please let me know. I’d be happy to do my best to answer them or tell you to just hit google.
There will be a public vote on this cocktail competition, so be prepared for a fuckload of spam coming your way from me. Apologies in advance, but the prize is a week long intense training course with the Bar Smarts lads in NY. They are the world’s leading spirits experts and I happen to think they are legendary demigods. The course ordinarily costs $10k so it would be deadly to get it!
ALL PHOTOS WERE TAKEN BY BARRY EGAN (NOT THE ONE FROM THE SINDO)