The hand-crafted cocktail movement involves the use of fresh seasonal ingredients, homemade cordials and syrups, small batch premium liquors, and good ice. Join writer, photographer, sommelier Colleen Thompson as she walks us through the seasons, making and shaking libations and telling stories.
By the time the end of March rolls around I am truly done with winter. Longer sunlight hours don’t necessarily mean warmer temperatures, and there is still 2 inches of snow on the ground and more expected overnight. The novelty of the snow has faded and we have done all there is to do in winter. We have built snowmen in our forest; walked and skated across our ice blue frozen lake; sled down Inglis hill and the steep side of the Citadel, on our trusty black demon sleds we inherited ten years ago when we first arrived in Halifax; we’ve braved the oval and skated despite the arctic temperatures; we’ve prepared long slow cooked cuts of meat that have filled our house with their rich aromas; sipped deep, chocolatey, ruby coloured reds and mixed wintery bourbon cocktails.
Now I need respite from the cold – a sign that things are changing. The icy sidewalks, weak sun, frozen landscape and the pewter sky are all enough to keep me cocooned. My two beagles look at me with their forlorn eyes, as another day passes and we have not done our usual long weekend walk around Long Lake. The still frigid temperatures keep us snuggled under a furry blanket instead, thumbing through my new beekeeping book, dreaming of springtime.
Imagine my excitement then, on my usual grocery store run, to find a small punnet of guavas. They are not something you see in Halifax very often and their appearance when they do arrive is fleeting – now is the time to get them. The smell of guavas is something I associate strongly with my South African childhood. They would perfume our house with their pungent, sweet, earthy smell every spring and large bowls of fruit salad with little chunks of their pink flesh would make an appearance after Sunday lunch. Dried guava, rolled up like thin pieces of sand paper would accompany every road trip and it would regularly be tucked into my school lunch box. Guava juice and fresh guavas align the aisles of every South African supermarket, so common they are barely noticed. Every now and again for a treat I still order canned guavas online from a Toronto supplier and eat them with ice-cold evaporated milk, and I am transported straight back to childhood.
Before I reach home, I have already eaten three of them and my car smells like fruit salad. The rest of the punnet will be turned into other delectables. Sliced in half and roasted with thyme, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of maple syrup and a pinch of salt they will accompany our roast pork dinner. Some will be chopped up and added together with citrus fruits for a salad. The remainder will be used to make guava simple syrup that will infuse our cocktails and remind us of warmer days.
I have to pay close attention these days to find the small changes that are already occurring – and changes are happening. The maple trees that surround our house have already started showing small signs of life once again. Their little red budded tips stand out in contrast to the grey and white frozen landscape. They are bursting to break bud, the miniature beginnings of this coming year’s new shoots. Tiny bulbs have pushed their heads up through the snow and April will receive all the credit when they blossom into their showy spring colours.
As I sit and sip my guava libation, the light outside is still bright at six o’clock. The beagles have finally ventured outside; only the tips of their black tails stick out of the snow. I have a view of the bird feeder, an iron skillet once upon a time, that is perched on the edge of the deck railing – it is a frozen solid mound of ice, but I have sprinkled birdseed on top. My regular seagull visitors are flying overhead, their bodies the same colour as the washed out sky, in search of their daily sliced banana I leave alongside the birdseed. The novelty of seeing seagulls at my birdfeeder against a snow background never fades. I am however, waiting impatiently to catch the first glimpse of a robin. Hoping that the Mi’kmaq fable is true and that its little red breast will be drawing the sun closer to us and a new cycle will begin for real.
2 slices of lime
1 ounce guava simple syrup
1 ounce lime juice
2 ounces rum (preferably white)
In a glass tumbler, combine the slices of lime and simple syrup and muddle together.
Fill the glass with crushed iced, and pour in the lime juice and rum. Stir and serve garnished with a slice of guava or lime.
Guava Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 guavas peeled and chopped
In a small saucepan over a medium heat, combine the water, sugar and guavas.
For the maple-roasted guavas:
8 ripe guavas, peeled and halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
A few sprigs fresh thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon soft butter
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the guavas, cut side up on a small roasting pan and drizzle each one with olive oil, maple syrup, thyme, seasoning and a few knobs of butter. Roast for 20 minutes or until soft and slightly caramelised.