Give it a shot

October 31, 2018
Photography by Melanie Jenkins.
Give it a shot

A surplus of lovely seasonal fruit and veg should never go to waste. Move over pickling and preserving – there’s a saucy alternative ready to turn your sunny-day supping into an explosion of fabulous flavour. With a bit of preparation, a tasty libation is but a shake away.

Hot-Process Syrups
This is what most of us think of when syrup comes to mind. A viscous liquid is produced by boiling water and sugar with your chosen produce – fruit, herbs, spices. Strain through a muslin cloth or fine-meshed sieve and you have a concentrated flavour at the ready.

Cold-Process Syrup
As the name suggests, there’s no heat involved with cold-process syrup making. A simple zip-lock bag can be used to mix sugar  and produce together which is then left to break down over time. The strained liquid is a fresher flavour than its hot-process counterpart.

Purées and Tincture
A purée doesn’t need much explanation, except to say make sure you have a high-powered blender or processor to avoid lumps. A tincture is a concentrated liquid of 100-proof alcohol infused with herbs, spices, nuts etc. Use sparingly to “season” your cocktail with some je ne sais quoi.


Cold-process syrup

Strawberry and Tarragon Rum Sour

The original recipe for this drink used pisco but we thought we’d switch it up by substituting rum – with delicious results.

  • 60ml white rum
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 30ml strawberry and tarragon syrup (see recipe below)
  • 1–2 teaspoons egg white

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and shake without ice to create a foam. Add ice and shake again. Pass through a small
fine-meshed strainer into a martini or coupe glass.

Image of a strawberry cocktal

Strawberry and tarragon syrup

  • 500 grams strawberries, hulled and finely chopped
  • 500 grams caster sugar
  • ⅓ cup tarragon leaves

Combine all the ingredients in a zip-lock bag, jiggling them around in the bag until well mixed. Press out as much air from the bag as you can, then seal it. Let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours, gently pressing from time to time and shuffling the ingredients to help dissolve the sugar. Strain the syrup through a fine-meshed sieve, discarding the solids. The syrup can be stored in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes 2 cups

image of shot glass of strawberry syrup

Hot-process syrup

Southside Garden

Pretty as a picture, this drink is summer in a glass. Fresh, fragrant and, with the pea syrup,  just that little bit special.

  • 1 Lebanese cucumber
  • 60ml gin
  • 30ml lime juice
  • 20ml sugar-snap pea syrup (see recipe below)
  • 5 mint leaves
  • extra sprig of mint, to garnish

Using a mandoline – or some mad knife skills – slice 2 paper-thin lengthways slices from the cucumber and wrap them around the inside of a rocks or short glass. Cut 3 thick slices from the remaining cucumber and muddle these in the bottom of a shaker. Add the remaining ingredients and shake with ice.

Fill the cucumber-lined glass with crushed ice and pass the cocktail through a small fine-meshed strainer into the glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Image of cucumber and mint cocktail

Sugar-snap pea syrup

  • 200ml water
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 100 grams sugar-snap peas, roughly chopped

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat when the mixture boils. Allow to cool before passing through a fine meshed sieve. The syrup should be bright green, and can be stored in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes 1 ⅓ cups

TOP TIP: These recipes feature fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs. When you get familiar with the processes involved, feel free to experiment and swap out the produce for your favourite flavour combinations. Each recipe serves one – but can be multiplied to make two or even three drinks at a time.

Image of a shot glass of sugar-snap syrup

Preserved Lemon Margarita

You may want to play around with the ratio of purée to fresh lemon to suit your taste. The tincture really adds an element of sophistication but don’t go overboard – it’s strong.

  • 60ml blanco tequila
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 30ml preserved lemon purée
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom tincture
  • edible flowers, to garnish

Shake all the ingredients hard with ice. Pass through a small fine-meshed strainer into a martini or coupe glass and garnish with an edible flower.

Image of lemon margarita cocktail

Preserved lemon purée

  • 2 preserved lemons,flesh and pith discarded
  • 200ml sugar syrup (recipe below)

Combine the preserved lemon pieces and sugar syrup in a food processor or blender and blitz on high until smooth. The purée can be stored in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes 1 1/4 cups

Image of a shot glass of preserved lemon syrup
Cardamom tincture

  • 50–70 grams cardamom seeds
  • 125ml 100-proof (or higher) vodka

Lightly toast the cardamom seeds in a dry pan over low heat until aromatic, then grind using a mortar and pestle. Combine the ground cardamom and the vodka in a sealable jar and leave in a cool, dark place for 5–6 days, stirring and tasting each day. The tincture should develop a strong cardamom flavour, but be careful it doesn’t become bitter. Strain through muslin (cheesecloth) or through a coffee filter paper. Store in a small bottle in the refrigerator where the tincture will last for months, if not years. Makes ½ cup


Warm Summer Evening

Be sure to use a quality sherry in this drink and do make sure you use a high-powered blender or food processor in order to create a totally smooth consistency.

  • 60ml fino sherry
  • 45ml nectarine purée (see recipe below)
  • 10ml sugar syrup (see recipe below)
  • soda water
  • sprig of basil, to garnish

Combine the sherry, nectarine purée and sugar syrup in a wine glass. Add ice and top with a dash of soda water, then stir gently. Garnish with the basil.

Image of a nectarine infused cocktail

Nectarine purée

  • 500 grams nectarines, stoned and roughly chopped
  • 100ml sugar syrup (see recipe below)

Combine the fruit and syrup in a food processor and blitz on high until smooth. The purée can be stored in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 2⅓ cups

Image of a shot glass of nectarine puree

Sugar syrup

  • 240 grams sugar
  • 125ml water

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until all the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. This syrup can be stored in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator for up to
1 month. Makes 1 cup