The Mighty Meadowsweet
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is ridiculously delicious in a syrup, and its almond and honey notes come to the fore in this cocktail. The blossom appears at the height of summer, so this tastes of summer nights to me. The oranges in the Grand Marnier and the sweet, nutty, spicy, vanilla, and floral notes of an oak-barrel-aged brandy as fine as cognac are a perfect marriage with the meadowsweet.
10ml Grand Marnier
15ml Meadowsweet Syrup (see below)
22ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
Dash of orange bitters
Cocktail shaker with strainer
Garnish: Small sprig of meadowsweet blossom
Chill the glass thoroughly in the freezer or refrigerator for 2 or 4 hours respectively. Alternatively, fill the glass with ice.
Pour all the ingredients into the cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker two-thirds of the way up with ice. Cover and shake hard for 20 seconds. If you used ice to chill your glass, empty it out. Strain the contents of the shaker into the chilled glass. Garnish with a small section of (bug-free) meadowsweet blossom.
Clouds of creamy, fluffy meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) blossom appear on Walthamstow Marshes in east London, not far from Midnight Apothecary, during early and mid-summer. Interspersed with pink and purple wild vetches and peas, they are a beautiful sight, and the heady, almond, vanilla, and honey scent is easily transferred to an exquisite syrup, which I actually prefer to elderflower cordial.
15 heads of meadowsweet blossoms, fully opened
1 litre water
1kg superfine (caster) sugar
Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed, organic lemon
Sealable presentation bottle(s), sterilised
Makes approximately 1 litre
Strip the meadowsweet blossoms from the stems and stalks, and put to one side to give the wildlife plenty of time to evacuate.
Make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a nonreactive pan over a low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once it reaches boiling point, remove the pan from the heat.
Add the lemon zest and flowers. Submerge the flowers in the syrup, cover, and leave overnight or up to 12 hours, to infuse.
Add the lemon juice, stir, then strain into a wide-mouthed pitcher to remove the flowers and lemon zest. Reheat the syrup gently in a clean nonreactive pan and funnel into the sterilized presentation bottle(s) while still piping hot. Seal the bottle.
Store somewhere cool and dark. Once opened, keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months.
The name meadowsweet comes from the plant’s traditional job of flavouring and sweetening mead. In medieval times, stems of meadowsweet were also used to sweeten the air. The leaves and stalks taste vegetal and medicinal when boiled, so make sure you strip the flowers from their stalks with your fingers (very easily done) or a fork before adding them to the pan.