When I was first asked to come up with a cocktail using fennel, I was stumped. I was skeptical even. However, not one to back away from a food challenge, I really had to think about this one. And then I remembered that there are many parts to this very exciting vegetable.
From the fronds right down to the bulb, fennel is quite versatile. But I went one step further and decided to use fennel seeds to make a sweet and slightly smoky fennel syrup. The fennel seeds were ground very lightly in a mortar and pestle and then cooked in a simple sugar syrup. It’s during this infusion that all of the magic takes place. Depending on how long you infuse the fennel seeds, the syrup begins to take on that wonderful, potent, aniseed aroma.
The cocktail itself is a simple vodka and cranberry mix. The tartness of the cranberry juice complements the sweet, aromatic fennel syrup, and I’ve added a little bit of freshly squeezed lime juice for freshness and balance. Garnish with some fennel stalks and fronds, and you have a unique and refreshing drink to serve at your next cocktail party.
Who says you can’t drink your vegetables?
Cranberry Fennel Refresher
Yield: 1 drink
Glassware: highball glass
Tools: saucepan, cocktail spoon
2 tbsp. (30 ml) fennel syrup (recipe follows)
1 tbsp. (15 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
2 fl. oz. (60 ml) vodka
fennel fronds and stalks for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass with ice.
2. Add fennel syrup, lime juice, and vodka. Stir.
3. Top with cranberry juice, and garnish with fennel fronds and stalks.
Ingredients for Fennel Syrup:
1 tbsp. (14 g) fennel seeds
1/2 cup (120 g) sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1. Lightly grind the fennel seeds using a mortar and pestle. Grind them just enough to release the oils. Do not turn the seeds into a fine powder.
2. Combine lightly ground seeds, sugar, and water in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Allow the mixture to come to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes until it slightly thickens.
3. Remove mixture from heat, and allow it to infuse for half an hour (leave for 1 hour if you prefer a stronger tasting syrup).
4. Strain the syrup, and let it cool before using in a cocktail.