Strawberry season is upon us! My favorite thing about the month of June in the Northwest is that Hood Strawberries are in season. They are the most amazing strawberries I've ever had in my life. They are so flavorful and bright. With both high acidity and high sugar content, they are superior for preserves, and are particularly amazing in cocktails.
I have fond memories of picking them each June with my mom as a kid. We would go out to one of the many U-Pick farms in our area and pick buckets upon buckets of them, adding one to our mouths as we put several in the bucket. I often ended up with a stomachache afterwards from eating so many while picking them, but it was worth it since the season only lasts a few short weeks.
While I didn't get out to pick my own this year, I did pick up a flat of berries from a local fruit stand. I prefer to eat my berries as is. No fancy dessert applications are needed for me to enjoy the magical flavor of Hoods, but I wanted a way to preserve them for a bit longer. I took a page from a favorite local restaurant, Kachka, and infused some Hoods into a bottle of New Deal Distillery's Portland Vodka, and I was not disappointed with that choice. One sip, and I was transported to the strawberry patch, my hands covered in red stains, and my belly full of delightful berries.
I wanted there to be some herbal notes to this cocktail, so I opted to do a split between the infused vodka, and Oxley Gin. Oxley is a London Dry style of gin that is cold distilled. The cold distilation process yields a more delicate floral characteristic and a brighter, more refreshing flavor profile than many traditionally distilled gins. And at 47% ABV, it stands up to other flavors in a cocktail much more than most gins that ring in around 40%.
I had made some rhubarb syrup earlier this month that I thought would make a great addition to the vodka, not only because that flavor combo is great together, but because the syrup would help to round out the mouthfeel, giving it a smoother, slightly sweeter finish. I wanted to add just a bit more of a fruit flavor to the mix, so I decided on pear. New Deal's Pear Brandy is one of my favorite new spirits. It was the winner of three awards from the American Distilling Institute (ADI) in 2018 for Certified Craft Spirits, including Best in Class award for all submitted brandies, Best in Category for Eau de Vie, and it won the Gold Medal for Craft Pear Brandy. It is a fine example of what craft distillers here in the Pacific Northwest are doing with locally sourced fruit.
Ultimately this cocktail was exactly what I wanted; bright, refreshing, and fruity. It's perfect for those warm, early summer days, and that light pink color certainly makes it even more appealing. I hope you'll get creative at home and give this one a try.
1 cup Rhubarb, sliced into 1" pieces
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Water
Bring ingredients to a boil, remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain solids from liquid and store in the fridge for up to a month.
Hood Strawberry Infused Vodka
1 pint Hood Strawberries
2 oz Rhubarb Syrup
Combine strawberries and vodka in a canning jar. Let mixture sit for 2 days in a cool, dry place. Strain berries off using a fine strainer and pour liquid through a nut milk bag to ensure all of the solids are captured. Add syrup to the vodka. Store in a cool, dry place.