Inspired by tasting Glendalough’s Wild Botanical Gin and Ceder’s Distilled Non-Alcoholic spirits, I wanted to create two recipes that would work equally well for alcoholic and non-alcoholic gins. If you love the flavours and aromas of spring and the joy of a freshly turned garden, give these wild spring cocktails a try.

Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin

We recently had the chance to meet full-time forager Geraldine Kavanagh, who walked us through the story of Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin and what she looks for while foraging through the Wicklow mountains in Ireland.  She sources all of the wild botanicals that go into Glendalough gins, harvesting them year-round, distilling each one individually as soon as it is brought in.

For Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin, the distillates are then blended at the end of the year, giving the gin the flavour of all four seasons in one sip. There’s a wonderful dynamism in the taste so that it begins with the aromas and flavours of the forest clearing in spring, moves to the flowers and fruits of summer and autumn, and ends with the spices of winter.

Glendalough Wild Botanical Irish Gin

What Goes Into Making GlendaLough

Geraldine described the care that is taken in making each batch that comes off of the still in a way that takes the label “handcrafted” to an entirely new level. I swear they’ve also bottled the evident delight she takes in her craft. You can see Geraldine and blender Rowdy Rooney discuss their work in this video.

The question of terroir came up in our discussion, and of course every craft gin will celebrate and include the flavours of its place. In this case, Geraldine’s mention of the flowers and plants that go into the gin made my heart sing: elderflower, heather, sorrel, honeysuckle, meadowsweet and woodruff. Poetry in the mouth for sound and for taste.

Glendalough is available for $52.95 at the LCBO in their gorgeous new bottle, embossed with images of the plants and places that make the gin. (You can reuse the bottle after enjoying its contents!) Look out for the remaining bottles of their rose gin, available at a discount where supplies have lasted. (After tasting it, I wiped out the stock at Summerhill LCBO!)

Ceder’s Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirit

It’s such an exciting time to be a gin lover. There is so much great innovation with non-alcoholic gins, and I was so excited to try these spirits from South Africa. Ceder’s is an award-winning distilled non-alcoholic spirit that comes in four expressions: Classic, Wild, Crisp, and Rose. It has 0 alcohol, 0 sugar and 0 calories, but lots of fabulous flavour and aroma.

Ceder’s combines classic gin botanicals juniper and corriander with botanicals like rooibos and buchu, sourced from the Cederberg Mountains of the Western Cape in South Africa, where Ceder’s gets its name.

Ceder’s Classic is a gorgeous fresh and floral expression with juniper, corriander and rooibos. It’s fantastic in a G&T garnished with fresh cilantro to punch up its green facets. With a strong note of clove, Ceder’s Wild is wonderful to pair with apple or stone fruit juices. Ceder’s Crisp is all about the cucumber, and it positively lifts the greenness up out of the glass. Ceder’s Rose is an earthy rose and hibiscus, with a tea-like facet. This is not a perfumey rose; it’s earthy and perfect for the petrichor-inspired cocktail below.

Ceder’s is available to purchase for $24.99 at well.ca. It is also available at Loblaws and Pusateris.

Recipes

Inspired by the sense of terroir each of these houses celebrate, I looked to wild, fresh and foraged ingredients for these early spring cocktails that would marry my place with theirs. From fiddleheads to forced rhubarb, these cocktails will help celebrate our first signs of spring.

Fiddlehead Martini

Fiddleheads are starting to appear in the markets. Whether you forage for them yourself, buy them at the market, or buy them already preserved, these gorgeous coiled ferns add a pop of interest to your cocktails. Think dirty martini with its earthy brine, and add green and citrus facets. It’s a briny, bright twist on a classic. By pickling them, you can make their very short spring season last a bit longer.

Martini lovers go wet or dry, with a lot or a little vermouth, so you do you. I swap the vermouth out altogether and use Tio Pepe extra dry sherry. It has a brisk, saline character that works perfectly with briny garnishes and it lets the gin sing.

Glendalough gin is exceptionally smooth, which makes it a delight for this spirit-forward cocktail.

fiddlehead irish gin cocktail

2 oz Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin or Ceder’s Classic

1/4 oz to 1 oz Tio Pepe extra dry sherry or dry white vermouth (Lyres makes a non-alcoholic dry white vermouth)

Ice

Pickled fiddlehead for garnish

In a mixing glass, stir gin and vermouth with ice until very well chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a fiddlehead.

You can pickle your own fresh fiddleheads with just about any pickling recipe, but for cocktail use, avoid adding garlic or dill to the recipe. Pay close attention to all the instructions for removing dirt! Fiddleheads take a lot of washing. Also, pay close attention to how long to cook them. You want to preserve their crunch. I used this recipe and added white and black pepper corns, sage and no garlic, and I scaled the recipe down to make only one jar. You can also buy pickled fiddleheads from Forbes Wild Foods. They have so many exciting wild flavours to explore.

Rose & Rhubarb

What I love about these rose gins is their earthy quality. I put rosewater in everything from dessert to lattes to bubble bath, but this is not that kind of rose. Think earth not air, garden not vase. Think the first sweet drops of rain.

Forced rhubarb is also in the markets now, and I can’t get enough of it. We’re having rhubarb and apple crips on the regular. If you are making rhubarb crumble with the first harvests of spring, put aside a stalk or two for your pre-dinner cocktails. Every time I’ve made this for guests, they have raved.

Rhubarb and Rose cocktails
Rhubarb and Rose Gin

2 oz rose gin

1/2 oz rhubarb syrup

soda water

Put gin and syrup into a glass and stir to combine. Fill with ice and top with soda water. Garnish with a lemon twist.

To make rhubarb syrup, combine 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture is clear, add one large or two small stalks of rhubarb, roughly chopped, and one strip of lemon peel. Bring back to the boil. Boil for one minute and then let cool. You want to heat the rhubarb long enough to bring out its flavour, but not so long that it goes jammy. Let it sit to infuse until cool. Strain into a clean jar. (You can save the rhubarb for eating! I had mine on yogurt.) You can also buy rhubarb syrup at Ikea.

Cheers to the inventive makers of craft spirits, to the first shoots of spring and to flavour adventures everywhere!

For more cocktail ideas for Mother’s Day, check out this post.

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