A couple weeks ago I mentioned on my Twitter page that I was competing with my neighbor in a cocktail pour-off. I couldn’t share my recipe then, because spying eyes from across the lawn could not be trusted. Truth be told, I was in over my head on this one and needed any advantage I could get. In the end my neighbor Kathy won with her refreshing and seasonal “Dirty Ramp-tinis.” She pickled the ramps, then poured ice cold gin over them and drizzled a bit of the pickling juice into the glass. They were simple perfection. I bowed my head to her after the first sip. My creations were dessert to her cocktail appetizers. I, of course, went for something with a bit of sweetness, but also tart and refreshing. I have been known to enjoy my sparkling beverages in the form of cava, prosecco and champagne; it was bound to be featured it in the glass. I had candied kumquats in my cupboard and lemongrass in my crisper drawer, so a citrus theme was born. I made a Meyer lemon and lemongrass sorbet to float in the champagne. I came in second (it was just the two of us competing), but I think I could have won against anything other than the “Dirty Ramp-tinis.” I did get extra points for presentation; I used my grandmother’s glasses and the drink really was lovely.
As I was enjoying my “Lemongrass Champagne Fizz Cocktail” I was already planning to make these same ingredients into a simple lemon champagne mint granita. Granita is like the rugged cousin of the sorbet. It has large crystals of flavored ice that require nothing but a basic freezer to make. It is perfect for those without an ice cream maker or those, like me, who just forgot to freeze the one I do own. It also doesn’t require a precise recipe to freeze smooth, since part of its charm is the icy texture.
Lemongrass Champagne Fizz Cocktail
1 bottle of champagne, cava, prosecco or sparkling wine. (My local wine shop recommended Jaume Serra Cristalino $10 as a mid-priced cava that would complement the cocktail, but not compete and I wouldn’t feel uneasy about putting sorbet in it. My point is, you don’t want to use Cristal for this drink, unless you are J-Lo!)
1 tablespoon per glass of lemongrass simple syrup (see recipe below)
1 scoop per glass of lemongrass sorbet (recipe below)
Candied kumquats for garnish
Mint for garnish
Meyer lemon and lemongrass sorbet:
2 large stalks of lemongrass
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
3 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced
To make the sorbet:
With the back of a knife, hit the lemongrass to “bruise” it. This gets some of the juices flowing and it will have more flavor.
Cut it up into 1/4-inch slices.
In a sauce pot combine the sugar, water and cut lemongrass, cook until the sugar is completely disolved. Let the syrup sit until cool to allow the lemongrass to steep. The longer the simple syrup sits with the lemongrass, the more intense the flavor will be.
In a large bowl combine the Meyer lemon, zest, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of the lemongrass simple syrup. Read my no-fail Sorbet making tips to create the sorbet base. This will require you to add more water and simple syrup until you have reached just the right sugar levels. Once you have achieved this, freeze it in your ice cream maker as they instruct.
To make the Lemongrass Champagne Fizz Cocktail:
In your serving glasses put a candied kumquat, 1 tablespoon lemongrass simple syrup and a scoop of the sorbet. Pour Champagne over them and top with a sprig of mint.
Lemon Champagne Mint Granita
In a large bowl combine about 1/2 bottle of champagne, Meyer lemon juice, zest, 1 cup water and simple syrup to taste. Remember this is not an exact science, it should just taste great. Add about 10 whole mint leaves.
Place the bowl in the freezer and leave for about 1 hour.
Stir the mixture with a fork, breaking up the ice crystals that will have formed on the surface. Stick it back in the freezer for another 30 minutes.
Remove from the freezer and break up the large chunks of ice with the fork again. Repeat this ever 30 minutes until the mixture no longer has any liquid.
It will be light and fluffy ice crystals that melt in your mouth.
Spoon the mixture into glasses and serve immediately with fresh mint leaves. Enjoy!