Some food, some drink.
Great Drinks Start in the Garden: Honey Thyme Tom Collins.
There's something about spring that makes me crave an herbal-infused cocktail. Thyme was the first plant up this year, and so that's what I ran with in this spin on the Traditional Tom Collins. In my take on this bar standard, a honey is transformed into a cocktail syrup with the addition of a fresh thyme tea. For the beverage proper, this herbed-up elixir is added to the two fingers of good gin and a generous squeeze of lemon.
I love perennial herbs. Keep 'em watered, keep 'em weeded, and every spring they'll pay you back with dividends. Whenever I start to see my herbs green up again, I get the urge to put 'em into concoctions that really let me experience their essence. This spring, my mint has been kinda slow to come up. As I've really been craving a cocktail with said herb, it's been kind of a let down; but I haven't let some slow greenery inhibit my ability to quench my thirst. While the mint's been late to the garden party, my thyme was right on- uh yeah; you know. Anyhow, thyme is great and all, but putting it into a cocktail can be tricky, as you really gotta show a little restraint, lest it dominate your cocktail (nobody wants a drink that tastes like a disinfecting wipe).
I've been on a classic cocktail kick lately; the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned, and the Tom Collins to name a few. The Collins already dabbles in botanicals courtesy of the gin, so I thought adding another layer of complexity would be interesting and fun. On the other hand, I didn't want the Thyme to totally take over either, and it seemed to me that a honey syrup would better temper those oft-overwhelming essential oils indicative of thyme.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Thyme-infused Honey Syrup
The Cocktail Proper
For the Thyme-infused Honey Syrup:
Using your cooktop / microwave / hot pot / whatever, bring your water just to a boil. Add the thyme and the hot water to a small French press and allow it to steep for 5 minutes. Press the tea, and then check to make sure that the temperature of your extract is not above 150F. At which time that the steepage is in the safe zone, stir in the honey. Once the concotion has settled to room temperature, store the syrup in a lidded container in the fridge where it'll keep for a long, long time.
To mix your Tom Collins:
Into a Collins glass (or other 10ish oz glass) half-full of ice, add gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup. Top with club soda and give it a quick stir before garnishing with a cherry and an orange slice (and maybe a sprig of thyme if you wanna get fancy).
- When making your fresh thyme "tea," I bet you could steep those herbs in a cheesecloth or just simply strain them, but a small French press is going to get you thru the whole ordeal a great deal faster and you'll end up with a product you don't have to strain a second time.
- If the Interwebs are to be believed, honey has subtle flavor compounds that are volatile above a temperature of about 150F. Play it safe check your thyme tea's temperature before stirring in the honey to ensure that those subtleties aren't lost.
- While honey is known for it's antimicrobial qualities, I would still keep my finished syrup in the fridge just to ensure you don't accidentally go making mead.
- Your choice of glass here is important because of the total volume the glass can hold. A Collins glass is about 10-12 fluid ounces. You go making this in a pint glass, and "top with club soda," and it's probably gonna taste watered down. Don't have cabinet space to stock barware? Juice glasses or highball glasses will usually do as well.
- If you do a lot of cocktails, this juicer here is just wonderful. A medium sized lemon will yield just about two tablespoons of juice every time, which'll in turn keep your drink consistent (even if no one's paying attention after the third or fourth).
- On the topic of hooch, I say pick the gin you like to bestest. A dry gin is good if you want to accentuate the more astringent notes of the thyme in the syrup. Likewise, the milder new world gins seem to bring out the floral notes in the herb and the honey alike. Personally, when I feel like treating myself, I dig Leopold's.
If you've already read the build order for this cocktail, then you're probably mixing this (or not) based on your love (or lack thereof) of gin. Fair enough; but y'know there's nothing to say that you couldn't make this a vodka Collins either. If you're rocking a well-mannered spirit, then the burn of the booze is non-existent; but should still be sufficient enough to act as the solvent that properly mingles the sour citrus with the sweet herbal and floral notes of your freshly-made cocktail syrup. Bottom line: This is a light and refreshing cocktail in the vein of a mojito that works just as well on a sunny spring afternoon as it does on a lazy, hot summer day.