Why did I get into the food and drink business? Well, mainly because I love to share: I want to stuff people's faces with baked goods and pour cocktail after cocktail down their throats. But most of all, I love to share a favorite recipe or a scoop on a new product.
Last month, I met Fred at the 19th Century Pub Crawl in Boston; we chatted cocktails over a seemingly bottomless bowl of punch at Drink. I was thrilled when I found out I had come across a relatively new-to-the-market liquor that Fred hadn't heard about yet: Averell Damson Gin.
Averell first came on my radar after I read an article in Edible Manhattan a few months ago; I immediately wanted to taste it for myself. From the first sip, I was hooked.
Averell is created by New York gin man Scott Krahn, who previously hit gold with his crisp, clean DH Krahn gin. A friend suggested to Krahn that he might try his hand at making gin infused with plums--popular in England, but almost unknown in the States. The "damson" in Averell Damson Gin is a small plum: tart and spicy, it's an extremely old variety, brought to the New World with some of the earliest European settlers. But over time, the Damson plum became rare, falling out of favor to larger, sweeter varieties.
But, as Krahn would find out, there was at least one orchard still growing the plums in New York: Red Jacket Orchards. Red Jacket is a place that somehow manages to balance commercial viability with a dedication to preserving the past: I've turned to them for heritage apple breeds, like Thomas Jefferson's favorite apple, the Newtown Pippin. Krahn bought up the entirety of Red Jacket's damson crop and turned his attention to the logistics of marrying the flavor of plums and gin.
In England, Damson Gin is rarely commercially produced. It's more often made at home: the plums are harvested in the fall and macerated in a dry gin until Christmas time, when it's given as a gift, or drunk amongst friends over the holidays. Krahn experimented with macerating the plums, but finally decided to use a barrel press to extract the juice as well as the rich color from the skins. Then, Krahn's aromatic gin was combined with the rich, red juice.
The result: a stronger plum flavor and an intense hue. Out of the bottle, one can taste a pleasant sweetness; the plum flavor is complex and complimentary to the herbal gin. Mixed in a cocktail, the flavor it adds is heavenly, the color a super-saturated surprise.
I wanted to highlight this gin at a tasting I held in Brooklyn last month, so I created a cocktail that both spoke to the gin's historic past and was an ideal summer drink. I came up with the Damson Fizz Punch. The recipe is derived from a Sloe Gin Fizz; instead of water as the base, I brewed a strong green tea, which is a nod to historic punch recipes. Topped off with a splash of seltzer, this cocktail is flavorful, refreshing, and guaranteed to keep the sticky summer heat at bay. But, I'll warn you: despite it's color and sweetness, this ain't no girly drink. It packs as much "punch" as any other gin cocktail.
• Juice of 1 Lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
• 1 tsp Sugar (or simple syrup)
• 1 oz Damson Gin
• 1 oz Strong Green Tea
• 1 oz Seltzer
Stir, and serve in a glass with ice.
Averell Damson Gin is available at Astor Wine and Spirits in New York, and Liquor World in Cambridge, MA, via Ideal Wines and Spirits. It is also being served at the Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar in Boston and Russell House Tavern in Cambridge.