It’s Thursday, and I’m sure we can all use a cocktail by now. I know I can. I came up with this the other night in an attempt to put the beautiful kumquats I had to good use. They’ve arrived at the shuk, big beautiful baskets of perfect little ovals to be purchased by the kilo.
I remember the first time I tasted a kumquat. I was a child attending the American Academy of Arts and Letters annual inauguration and opening way uptown with my parents; we went every year. They always had a variety of cheese and crackers, all you could drink soda and, best of all, kumquats. I learned to love their citrusy sour taste that makes your mouth pucker like a Lemonhead candy. I discovered that they should be eaten whole, the skin enjoyed more than anything else, popped in your mouth and savored.
But even in New York kumquats remained an oddity, a specialty. I can recall few other times besides those openings when I enjoyed their tart taste. Which is why I was so excited to see them in bounty, and not expensive, at the shuk. I knew I had to buy them, even though I wasn’t yet sure how I’d consume an entire pound by myself (Evan, sadly, is not crazy about them). I used kumquats earlier in the week for my Chicken Marbella with Kumquats. I ate them by the handful. I sliced them and put them in my morning yogurt.
Then I looked over at my bottle of gin and knew a cocktail would be just the place for a few of my prized kumquats. It began with the idea of pairing kumquats with cilantro, which I also had in my fridge. After debating what the final ingredient would be (Campari, Maraschino, and seltzer all crossed my mind) I decided on dry vermouth. I made simple syrup using demerara/turbinado sugar for a slightly earthier taste. The drink came out smooth and pleasant, easy to drink but not too easy. A drink to sip. The botanicals of the gin and vermouth came through most of all, accented by kumquat and cilantro. And I am calling it a Kumquat Martini Smash because, well, it’s the base of a martini with the method of a smash. Cheers!
Kumquat Martini Smash
Yield: 1 cocktail
3 kumquats, sliced
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh cilantro
Â½ ounce demerara simple syrup (recipe below)
1Â½ ounces gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
2 dashes bitters
Put the kumquats, cilantro, and simple syrup in a shaker and muddle thoroughly. Add the gin, vermouth, bitters, and ice and shake until cold. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a kumquat slice.
Yield: 2 cups
1 cup water
1 cup demerara sugar
Bring the water to a simmer and add the sugar. Simmer, stirring often, until the sugar has fully dissolved and the mixture has thickened slightly like a syrup. Allow to cool. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.