The challenge this month, thanks to Kevin at Save the Drinkers, is local challenge. Let’s see how Kevin defines that:
Option 1: Gather ingredients that are representative of the culture/geography/tackiness of your respective cities and make a drink with a truly place-based style. For example, huckleberries are native to the geographical area where I live, as are elderflowers, potatoes, and extremely conservative, closet-case politicians. (I’m just saying!)
Option 2: Dig up an old drink that came from your city and revive it! If you can find the original bar, that would be even more interesting.
I don’t know about you, but when I think “local flavor” and “New England,” the first thing I think of is seafood. The official vegetable of Rhode Island, after all, is the squid.*
But alas, there are few cocktail recipes that require seafood, unless you count the oyster shooter, which I don’t, frankly. And I haven’t settled in to Providence long enough just yet to know what’s representative of my city. Forbes tells me that Providence is fourth among the nation’s hardest drinking cities, but that doesn’t really tell me what Providence drinks. The 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale, manufacture, and distribution of beverage alcohol, was ratified by all but two states–Rhode Island and Connecticut. But that still doesn’t tell me what Rhode Island drinks.
I don’t know what edible flora are native to Rhode Island. I don’t know what Roger Williams ate for dinner the day he founded Providence. So, aside from seafood, I don’t know much about the food culture of Rhode Island or Providence.
What I do know is what’s available to us from local farmers at the city’s farmers markets. I know what spirits are distilled in Rhode Island and its neighboring states. And I know how much Jen and I enjoy shopping our local farmers markets, especially in August, at the height of the season.
I’ve talked before about the benefits of making your own tomato juice for a Bloody Mary, but today, we’re going a little farther. Today, I can tell you that everything we could source locally, we sourced locally. Jen was tentatively calling our weekend’s concoction the Bloody Rhody, but that’s not quite accurate, as you’ll see. I’m dubbing it the Bloody Nor’easter.
For the Bloody Nor’easter, I started with local heirloom tomatoes, grown in RI and prepared as discussed in the previous link. I took two ounces of Triple Eight Vodka, distilled on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, and muddled two small hot peppers and a small handful of basil (both from the farmers market) into the vodka. I strained the solids out and returned the vodka to the mixing glass.This worked well because I got the flavors of the peppers and basil in the vodka without the solids mucking up the works. I could have achieved the same effect by steeping the peppers and basil in the vodka for some time, but I didn’t plan ahead.
I added four ounces of tomato juice (for two drinks), lime juice (not local, since citrus doesn’t grow in the Northeastern United States), Worcestershire (also not local), salt (also not local), some local Rhode Island Red hot sauce, and a secret ingredient.
What? Okay, I’ll tell you the secret. Remember how I said that few cocktails require seafood? Well, as any reputable Canadian might tell you, a tomato-based drink does well with a bit of seafood. The night before I assembled the Bloody Nor’easter, Jen had simmered up some Rhody clams with a bit of Trinity IPA (from a Providence brewpub) and some shallot. She reserved a bit of the clam-beer liquid for me before doctoring it up with spices and butter for our dinner, so I added a bit of that to the mix.
We served ’em up with a beer chaser. Jen chose the Trinity IPA from Providence, and because I don’t really dig on the IPA style, I selected the Hurricane Amber Ale from Coastal Extreme in Newport, RI.
I actually have another drink with local flavor, but I’m whizzing close enough to deadline and bedtime as it is. The second one will have to wait until later in the week.
*I kid, of course. I’m a squid kidder. RI has no state veg, and its state fruit is the Greening Apple, which won’t ripen for at least another month.