Star Hodgson was making seasonal cocktails as early as 2007, when she began her turn as Loa's general manager.
"We didn't even know to call them craft cocktails then," says Star, whose trips to San Francisco kept her on the leading edge of the blossoming drinks movement. (These days, she's the Louisiana bartender for beverage distributor giant Glazer's.)
And she's a natural choice to create cocktails for Slow Food's Slow Pickle dinner Sept. 20. To go with the night's fermented foods, Star will lengthen her cocktails with drinking vinegars, or shrubs.
"The secret to making shrubs is time and patience," she says, forgoing faster direct heat for a more flavorful slow method of macerating local, fresh-cut fruit in vinegar for about 10 days. She then stirs sugar into the captured juices.
In a cocktail, the vinegar adds acidity, "so there's no need to use citrus for tartness," says Star.
For the Slow Pickle dinner, she'll pair spirits from Glazer's broad portfolio with her own raspberry or blackberry shrub, as well as a peach shrub she put up earlier this summer, when local peaches were at their best.
As a preview for the dinner, Star made me a lovely ginned-up raspberry shrub, topped with prosecco. Here, fruit softens the sparkling, and gin's florals are a perfect match.
She also shook up a peach shrub cocktail, two ways: the shrub sharpens and sweetens silver rum, while adding almost buttery notes to rye whiskey. Try any one of these drinks, and you'll find that the base spirit shines through beautifully.
"And shrubs keep almost forever," she says, which lets you extend your favorite season.
Slow Pickle, featuring small plates and Star's cocktails, will be held 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Café Carmo, 527 Julia Street. Proceeds will help the NOLA chapter send local kids and farmers to Slow Food's conference in Italy in October 2014. For reservations, call 875.4132.
You can also sample Star's specialty cocktails at a "Ladies' Night Out" cocktail dinner Sept. 25, hosted by Ruth's Chris in Metairie. Star will pair four courses with different expressions of Ketel One vodka, including a dessert cocktail sweetened with oleo saccharum, a syrup made from sugared orange peels. Call 888.3600 to learn more.
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