Splendor By the Glass
Credit Les Miles for making it cool to eat grass, but has his turf-chomping (which first became college football lore in 2010, after a win over Alabama) influenced the slow creep of pasture-based cocktails?
First there was last year's American launch of Zu vodka, infused with Polish bison grass, and now Dante's Kitchen is growing cocktails with a tropical grass from India called khus (pronounced "koss"). The grass has a number of curious uses - it's grown thick to stop soil erosion and woven as rope, and oil extracted from the root goes into perfume (on your bottles, it's labeled as "vetiver").
No surprise that one of our most consistently farm-to-table restaurants would pluck this long-tufted grass for a mocktail made with citrus and cream.
Off the menu, though, is a ginned-up drink that calls on khus simple syrup, two spirits, citrus and sweet spices, topped with an egg white that keeps its perfect foam throughout the drink (the secret is to shake it dry, and again with ice, before straining it).
Jordan Deis found khus at the International Market in Metairie, then steeped its feathery leaves into the base of a simple syrup, which has a delicate perfumed taste and a clean, soft-minty finish. "It's a palate cleanser," says Jordan, likening it to candied fennel.
This khus simple syrup pairs well with floral gin; they're both sparked by spiced rum and a strong splash of ginger beer (its carbonation seemingly makes the drink a fizz, but Jordan stands firm: without soda, it's a sour).
He named the khus-inflected cocktail for Britain's colonial kingdom (India was its crown jewel), but I can also see a certain football coach drinking it as he commands a packed stadium, hungering for the humble blade of grass.
The Sun Never Sets Sour
WRITTEN BY JORDAN DEIS, COURTESY OF DANTE'S KITCHEN
1.0 oz. ginger beer
0.75 oz. lime juice
1 egg white
1.5 oz. Blackwoods Gin
0.5 oz. khus simple syrup**
0.5 oz. house-infused spiced rum (you can use El Dorado Spiced Rum)
2 dashes house-made bitters (Jordan's is bourbon based, with cinnamon, clove and gentian root)
Add all ingredients into a shaker, and vigorously dry shake (no ice) for about 15 seconds. Add ice, and shake again for another 10 seconds. Double-strain into a rocks glass, and spray more bitters on top if you like. Serves 1
**You can (sometimes) find khus grass at the International Market in Metairie. To make the syrup, place khus in 8 quarts of water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Double-strain immediately, then make a simple syrup using a 2:1 ratio of sugar and steeped khus water.
Dante's Kitchen • 736 Dante St. • 504.861.3121