The Scrap-Crafted Cocktail
Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of SPOKE+BLOSSOM
Most of us pride ourselves on growing, sourcing and purchasing the very best produce that we can find. Considering how difficult it can be to acquire quality produce, it makes sense to utilize every part of each plant. At our house, when we cut off the tops of carrots, peel away onion skins or chop the bottom off a celery bunch, we set aside these “scraps,” toss them in a bag and freeze them until we have enough to make abatch of stock.
I apply this same philosophy of upcycling scraps to my cocktail arsenal. I think that a lot of people feel obligated to use the best parts of produce for their stocks or infusions. While I am not disagreeing that doing this may yield superior results, the practice is unnecessary and inefficient. These scrappy pieces might not bethe most beautiful in appearance, but they are packed with flavor that can be further extracted and maximized.
Here are a few ways to incorporate kitchen scraps into your summer cocktails that would otherwise be discarded.
For my infused syrups, I use a basic ratio of one part each: sugar, water and fruit or vegetable. Bring these ingredients to a low simmer, remove from heat, let cool and strain the solids. Syrups can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Syrups can be used in a variety of culinary creations. I recently made a strawberry shortcake and reserved the tops of the berries for an infused syrup. I incorporated this vibrantly hued strawberry top-infused syrup in a classic French 75 cocktail.
For infusions, I usually begin with a more basic spirit, like white rum or vodka; however, one of my favorite scrap-crafted concoctions is an apple peel-infused bourbon. When I am peeling apples for pie, I toss the peels into a mason jar, add a cinnamon stick, and top it off with bourbon. Taste every day or two and strain the solids once you are satisfied with the flavor intensity. This particular infusion is a delicious base for an Old Fashioned.
Whenever I am juicing citrus for a recipe, I make sure to always zest the skins first. If I do not have an immediate use for the zest, I make a simple citrus salt. Salt is an excellent preserving and extracting agent. Tossing citrus zest into a small jar of salt and shaking it up can provide you a summer’s worth of delicious rimming salt for margaritas. I also love to season grilled Olathe corn with a dash of this zesty salt or sprinkle a little on freshly baked shortbread.
If you’d like to participate, post photos of your upcycled cocktail creations using the hashtage #scrapcraftedcocktails.