I tell people not to worry too much about simple swaps and imprecise measurements. You want to go a little heavy on honey or use rum instead of tequila? Go for it — you're not negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. Lavender is the exception. It's so easy to overdo this ingredient and condemn your drink to barely potable potpourri. That said, lavender can be sublime when applied appropriately. My sweet spot is when it barely registers. I want people to ask, "What's that flavor?" before I giddily reveal the secret.
Alcohol is a great solvent or, to put it another way, very "grabby." Not only will it mix with water, sugar, and citrus juice when you shake it into a cocktail, but it also does a really good job of stripping essential oils from other substrates. (This is the same thing that was going on with the butter-infused rum from my Hot Buttered Butter Rum recipe.) In the case of this drink, we're stripping the lavender essential oils from the dried flower buds. As opposed to the butter rum infusion, which takes hours, this infusion takes only 5 minutes, so you don't need to plan ahead. Plus, with a mesh tea infuser, you only need to infuse the amount you're about to use in the cocktail. (Although, you can infuse an entire bottle if you want — it will keep nicely. For a 750-milliliter bottle of vodka, combine with 1 1/3 cups of lavender. Let sit for 5 minutes, then strain. Rebottle and store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.)
With this drink, I really wanted to let the subtlety of the lavender speak for itself, and leave out any unnecessary adornments — except for the origami flower, a cute party trick that's well worth the practice.
Recipe: Lavender Vodka Lemonade
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 3/4 tablespoons food-grade dried lavender
- 1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 ounces simple syrup
- Pour vodka into a small shaking tin. Place the lavender in a mesh tea infuser and drop it in the vodka. After 5 minutes pull the strainer from the vodka, let drain, and discard the lavender. (If you don't have a tea infuser, you can strain the vodka through a fine-mesh sieve.) Add the remaining ingredients and ice. Close the shaker and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Pour the entire contents of the shaker into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with an origami flower, if you'd like.