Friday, April 25, 2014

Sage simple syrup

Clevelandia sage is my very favorite. It's native to the southwest and it is STRONG. Once you've had it, the regular grocery store sage just feels tame by comparison.

When we moved to our new apartment I tried sneakily planting some in the front yard but it died (possibly because I procrastinated so long that it was already dead before it went in the ground). Then our manager went on an improvement tear and planted lilies in every empty patch of ground around our building, which basically rules out my chances for trying again.

The other week I noticed that one of the houses near us has an enormous clevelandia bush right next to the sidewalk, so I tucked my scissors in my pocket and took a few clippings home with me.*

clevelandia sage
{clevelandia sage}

Just 20 minutes later, this was happening.


I play a lot with infused simple syrups because it's such an easy way to get any flavor profile you can dream up. This sage simple syrup gives a really gorgeous scent and finish to a simple cocktail.

Sage simple syrup
1/2 cup sage (might want more if you're using milder sage)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

:: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow the syrup to cool fully. Once cool, strain into a jar and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

And then I needed to make a drink with it. I used the cocktail base I posted about yesterday and messed around a bit. I'd just restocked our St. George terroir and it paired well with the sage syrup. St. George comes in three varieties and the terroir is the piney-est. I was worried the sage would just get lost but you still get it in the finish and it complements all that pine very nicely. Because I know St. George isn't available everywhere, I re-tested the cocktail again later with a less flavorful gin and the sage stands out much more. I can't decide which version I like more. Rest assured, you'll enjoy it either way.

gin and sage
{sage and gin}

Sage and gin cocktail - serves 1
2 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz sage simple syrup

Shake well with ice, pour.

And just for good measure (or non-gin drinkers), the drink pictured yesterday, which is similar but with Bulleit rye whiskey. I upped the simple syrup a bit here but you could reduce it if you find it too sweet. I love the play of the rye and the sage together.

Rye and sage - serves 1
2 1/2 oz rye whisky
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz sage simple syrup
2 dashes bitters (added in a post-napkin notes round)

Shake well with ice and pour.

You guys, I am the WORST at thinking up good cocktail names. I need to come up with better ones but my mind just goes blank. I think the appropriate time to start working on that is really two drinks in. Will report back soonest.

*I am deeply conflicted about this because I grew up in a house with a fruit tree in the front yard and it was beyond frustrating to have a stranger come over and strip your tree of fruit without so much as a by-your-leave. In general, I will never take fruit from anyone's yard (they care for the tree and water it!) although I will sometimes make a small exception if I pass a kumquat tree that is clearly going unappreciated, because seeing all those beautiful kumquats languishing on the ground makes my heart hurt. BUT, I felt pretty comfortable taking the sage because the bush is so well established and it grows like a weed. I was careful to take just a few sprigs from areas where it wouldn't make any aesthetic difference.


  1. This is my EXACT philosophy regarding picking herbs and fruit from neighbors, down to the "kumquats are ok." I wouldn't take fruit from trees having witnessed people taking my own precious yield of fruits, but yes, kumquats seem to always be neglected!

    (I am guilty of taking the handful of berries, though, I will admit.)

    1. Kumquats are so seldom appreciated! It just kills me when I pass trees where it's clear no one is interested in eating any of the fruit, because I LOOOOVE kumquats and you can't get decent ones in the grocery store. I know I need to get it together and go up and knock and ask if I can harvest a bunch of them from one of the neglected trees, but I'm an introvert and that knocking on a stranger's door sounds terrifying.

  2. Agreed about the sage harvesting. I have a huge-ass (I believe that is the technical term) rosemary bush in my front planter box and I often wish people would come and help themselves a bit. It is so large there is no way I can use all cuttings I have to take off to keep it from invading the other herbs!
    Fruit is a little different for sure. I just moved, but at my old house I had a large orange tree that had plenty of oranges. One day I found a note on my gate that someone had left saying they would like to take some if it was alright and leaving their phone number. I thought it was so nice that they had asked (even though I probably wouldn't have noticed if they had just taken some) that I immediately called them to tell them they were welcome to come by to take some.
    I live in Tucson, AZ so there are TONS of citrus trees. Sometimes you will see signs out by them that say please do not take fruit because it is being saved to donate to the local food banks. Good people.
    ps. I am not a huge gin fan, but I love sage so that cocktail still sounds delicious!

    1. Oh, the note is so smart and a good solution! So much better than what I was thinking I'd have to do, which is actually knock on a door. I should start leaving notes ...

      In my parents' neighborhood there is tons of citrus and avocados (OC used to be mostly groves) and people often put a big box of fruit in their front yard with a little payment box, asking for a few bucks for a bag of fruit. I always think it's sweet (and also wonder how often people steal the money, because I'm a cynic, apparently).

    2. Yeah, having to knock on someone's door sounds like the worst! Notes are the way to go. Although I guess then you run the risk of them being fine with you taking fruit, but being too lazy to actually call you and tell you it is pros and cons.

    3. I like this note idea! Maybe you could even write, a la middle school, "Please check yes or no" at the end of the note, then stop by later that week hahah!

  3. Maybe you should call it 'Wry and Sage'? A nod to the wisdom of a good stiff drink and the (sadly) temporary feeling it delivers!

    1. Liking this! And thinking of maybe playing off the "advice" vibe of it somehow? Because advice can be both wry and sage. Hmmmm ....

    2. Good call! Maybe just The Advisor? (or Adviser - am in the UK and can't remember which way round is right). Was trying to work in the idea of bartender as advice source somewhere but clearly have too much time on my hands! I'm all for cocktails called 'The (Whatever). Love your blog btw - been lurking for a couple of years but never felt brave enough to comment before now. Looking forward to hearing more about your experiments with simple syrups.

    3. Well, your first comment was a good one! I always love hearing from long time lurkers. : )

  4. Ha, two drinks in, that's a good choice. I was thinking Osage County for one of them, but that's a nod to alcoholism that may be just a bit too distasteful. I like the Wry and Sage idea, though. It's a nice play on words!

  5. I read your blog but have never commented. You are so cute!! And I love what a caring person you are and that you put alot of thought into taking the clippings. Also I wish you could just give me a boot camp session in home making. I read thorough your descriptions of getting your house together or your meal plan and wish i could be that on top of things. Heres to one day!!

  6. Re: the sage-lemon-gin cocktail -- just tried this with Junipero, a really juniper-y gin. Going to try reducing lemon, maybe by half, to bring out more of the sage flavor. Nice drink though! Thanks for recipe and direccs on making the syrup.

  7. I've made different simple syrups, and infused gin for the last few years. Onion gin and rosemary simple syrup are a favorite.

    I would be careful about taking from others especially since you don't know how they care for their plants. Heavy chemical use, or roadway runoff would make for a toxic cocktail indeed. Just ask! You might find a source for unlimited botanicals.


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