Blue Bonnie Spruce

The Blue Bonnie Spruce is a winter gin-and-tonic type cocktail, which is garnished with a pine sprig.

Another request! The Hot As Helm, even thought it went untasted by everyone but me due to the pandemic, inspired a wish for “inspired” signature cocktails.

There were no specific requests attached to this one, which made it both easy and difficult at the same time.

A Gin and Tonic for Winter? Discuss.

The truth is, I’ve been thinking about gin and tonics recently, which strike me as very summery drinks…well, I’ve been wondering how to make a gin and tonic for winter. You see, Elizabeth and I were in India at this time last year, drinking gin and tonics of course, in the sun… recreating the feel of that special time, here in the damp Seattle winter, has been a taste challenge. 

To me, G&Ts taste like 85 degrees…like sitting on the porch on the Cape in the late afternoon, or firing up the grill while you’re still in your wet bathing suit, or wearing white to a nighttime roof party.

And now, having had them in India, they also taste like darting through a traffic circle while hunting for tonic…or being escorted to and from the liquor store by a hotel clerk of whom I merely asked directions… he wasn’t even from my hotel. Folks, *he wouldn’t even allow me to carry my bottle of gin*. I still don’t know what that means. I still remember my confusion as he intercepted the bottle from the liquor store clerk, wondering if I’d just been duped! I’m sure I was very uncouth (at the minimum!) by seeking out alcohol alone; maybe he was worried about me.

That could be another post entirely…sorry, I don’t mean to digress. We were talking about gin and tonic.

All of this is to say that those tastes and associations are very incongruous with gray, rainy, Seattle January weather. Hence my thoughts about what a winter G&T might look and taste like.

Well, I think I may have come close.

The Pine Connection

I have a bottle of gin from Germany’s Black Forest, which Elizabeth brought back for me while on a business trip. It tastes quite like pine (as does the Spruce Lee). I’m never one to shy away from pine in my liquor (hello, retsina!), though some find it an acquired taste. This gin can’t be used for my Dirty Martinis, since the pine and olives wouldn’t get along at all. Besides drinking it nearly plain – which is entirely delicious, don’t be fooled! – I hadn’t explored many cocktail options.

Tonight seemed like a good night to give it a try, if only because of a word association: I thought that Bonnie (my friend and requester) shared her name with a species of pine tree. (I was only partially correct – more on that later).

The Process

The answer to using the Needle Gin in cocktails, I think, is to keep everything really fresh and light. Think other herbs, fresh fruits or vegetables.

I had half of a lemon; that fit the bill. So did an easy simple syrup: at first, it was just sugar and water, but at the last minute, I added a tiny bit of ground coriander, as well as lemongrass powder. (If you go this route, don’t forget to filter the remaining powder debris; cheesecloth or a coffee filter will work. I used a cloth napkin because I didn’t have anything else). While the simple syrup cooled, I went outside and cut a couple of sprigs from a pine that hangs over my deck. 

I intended to add tonic water to the glass, but changed my mind at the last minute. It did need an additional 1/2 tsp of sugar to soften the lemon-pine combination, which for a moment smelled just a little…antiseptic. There’s a reason that’s a classic combo – they really work together!

The result is very clean and light drink that’s more complicated than the summer version, I think, which is fitting. It smells like cold, and like Christmas, a little. It would taste nice while reading or writing in front of a fire, or after winter sports.

There is no Bonney Pine (more’s the pity) but there is most certainly a Blue Bonny Spruce, and I think that’s close enough to be super charming.

We’re heading toward more light as we leave the winter behind, so pretty soon it will be time for light and summery drinks again.

Ingredients

  • 3 oz Needle Gin

  • 2 oz Lemongrass-Coriander Simple Syrup

  • Juice from 1/2 Lemon

  • 1/2 tsp Sugar

  • Pine sprig for garnish

  • Lemongrass-Coriander Simple Syrup
  • 1/3 cup Water

  • 1/3 cup Sugar

  • Dash of Lemongrass Powder (fresh is even better)

  • Dash of Coriander Powder (fresh is even better)

Directions

  • Boil water, plus 1/3 cup sugar with Lemongrass and Coriander for up to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Strain through cheesecloth, coffee filter, cloth napkin or the like, in order to remove powder particles that don’t dissolve.
  • Add simple syrup, gin, lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp sugar to shaker with ice. Shake until satisfied, and pour over ice.
  • Garnish with a sprig of pine, toast to friends, and enjoy!
Enjoyed on January 31, 2021

2 comments

  1. Anne02/02/2021 | Reply

    This sounds brilliant! I am sending this link to my SIL Deirdre, who will find immediate kinship to your East Coast G & T summer tradition - and a little coming of age anecdote that will immediately come to her mind. I want to enjoy this on the shore after one of our winter wild swims. Can’t wait to see you again!

    • admin02/02/2021 | Reply

      Awesome, Anne!!! Yeah, I think we can take this on the road (to the beach, that is)! It reminded me a little bit of the Greta Garbo, actually - which you have also enjoyed :)

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