As the holidays grow closer, certain aromatic spices are difficult to escape: mint, cinnamon and ginger acting as the cornerstones of many holiday recipes. As much as I love the spiciness of ginger or cinnamon, these ingredients are not the only ways Louisiana residents can add seasonal flavor to our holiday tables.
December is a great time to embrace fresh herbs that can tolerate normal winter freezes but are frequently forgotten between recipes for cocoa and cookies. One such herb, rosemary, is one of Louisiana’s strongest perennial warriors, almost impossible to kill and vibrantly fragrant.
Because of rosemary’s natural oils, the woody herb has an earthy quality that is easy to infuse into breads, sauces, soups and even cocktails. When cooking with rosemary, it’s wise to think, “less is more.” Unlike most herbs that grow weaker when dried, rosemary’s natural oils become concentrated, so be sure to measure your ingredients carefully.
Pictured: Rosemary Pear Martini with Grey Goose La Poire Vodka.
In this recipe for a vodka-based Rosemary Pear Martini, I use fresh rosemary sprigs infused in a one-to-one ratio of simple syrup. While I wish I could take credit for this lovely combination of sweet pears, vodka and seasonal rosemary, I was inspired by the Grey Goose La Poire Rosemary Martini made by bartender Derek Messelt at Baton Rouge’s Le Creolé. Derek’s version is earthy, crisp and clean, available for $10 or less with radically low cocktail prices during lunchtime. If you like my version, Derek’s is even better, including a fresh rosemary sprig that he torches in front of patrons (it’s quite a show).
For your drink menu this holiday season, try a seasonal martini without the mint or cinnamon and reach for fresh ingredients that set a mature tone. And, to save time, make your cocktails by the pitcher instead of the glass.
Rosemary Pear Martini
—Rosemary Simple Syrup—
* 2 cups water
* 2 cups sugar
* 3-4 large sprigs fresh rosemary, or 2 1/2 tablespoons dried rosemary, roughly chopped
* ice cubes
* 2 cups rosemary simple syrup
* 1 cup pear juice
* rosemary sprigs, for garnishing
1.) To make the simple syrup, bring water to a boil and whisk in sugar. Boil for two to three minutes until the sugar has dissolved completely, then add rosemary sprigs boiling for an additional two to three minutes. Remove syrup from heat, cool and refrigerate. Rosemary simple syrup can be stored in a refrigerated, sealed container for up to one month or until the clarity of the syrup begins to grow cloudy.
2.) To make a party-sized serving of this martini, fill a pitcher with ice cubs and strain simple syrup. Pour syrup, vodka and pear juice over ice, then stir and serve with a rosemary sprig to garnish.
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Written by: Helana Brigman