In the woods, some plants live for summer. As the seasons change they fade to dormancy, but the Evergreens endure. They weather cold and heat, storms and drought, never abandoning their post.
I find assurance in the lessons of nature. The question I face during this pandemic is how can JAZ Spirits be vibrant in a season where production has stopped, events are cancelled, and bartenders have stopped mixing drinks? When I’m in the woods foraging and a tree has fallen across my path, I don’t stop and wait for the tree to disappear. I go over it, under it or around it. I might even turn back and take a different path.
One of the ways I’ve stayed productive during the covid shutdown has been to find new ways to invite folks to take their cocktails to the forest. One such event was called “Evergreen”, a celebration of resilience in difficult conditions.
I created the menu for a wild dinner party set in the deep woods of the foothills of Mt Hood highlighting resilient wild ingredients. Each of JAZ’s spirits have native evergreen elements that we mixed into cocktails to pair with each dish.
We started the evening in dappled sunlight under a Western Red Cedar with a salad of foraged wood sorrel, cucumber, feta, and green olives, dressed with shallot vinaigrette and garnished with tarragon and nasturtium petals. The fresh and salty salad was paired with an ice cold Verstovia Spruce Tip Martini, a simple serve of Verstovia Vodka and Dolin dry vermouth stirred together with ice, and finished with a crushed flake of Oregon sea salt and a lemon twist.
Verstovia Spruce tip vodka features Sitka Spruce, a native tree that flourishes along the north Pacific coast of our continent, withstanding salty air and violent winter storms by allowing itself to be sculpted into a low growing hillside shaped wave of prickly boughs. In gentler coastal forests, it grows tall and straight, proving its adaptability.
Dinner progressed to a Wild Mushroom and Pork Pie made with a trio of porcini, lobster, and chanterelle mushrooms topped with a flaky pie crust. The rich stew begged for a similarly dark and deep cocktail. Cold Tree Gin, Salal Berry Liqueur, and cacao bitters were stirred together with ice for a full bodied velvety Martinez, harnessing the flavors of the deep woods during mushroom season.
Our Salal Berry Liqueur highlights Oregon’s most prolific native berry, salal. The evergreen shrub is able to grow and adapt to a variety of soils and exposures from sandy shores to valley floors, and dark woodlands to mountain slopes. Inspiringly, it is most likely to bear fruit when conditions are difficult, teaching us that perseverance is rewarded.
Cold Tree Gin presents toasted juniper and spices, invoking an old growth forest visited by drought and fire. Years of detritus build up layers of duff that provides the bed for new life to emerge, reminding us that we are part of history and our actions matter.
As the light faded, we enjoyed a creamy grapefruit panna cotta with salal berry coulis and pine nut cookies. Picking up citrus and wild berry notes in the dessert, I shook a Huckleberry Gimlet with Riverain Gin and wild huckleberry jam.
Riverain Gin features Douglas fir needles and Cottonwood buds alongside traditional gin botanicals. Although cottonwoods are not evergreen, they are still capable of action during dormancy. Buds set in winter and when storms break the boughs they send them tumbling into the riverbed. Those branches are swept along by the water until they get caught on a rock or washed up on the riverbank. Those broken pieces weren’t lost. Cottonwood has a special ability for each of its dormant branches, once settled, to root and grow. I am reminded that even in situations that feel broken, we can still continue to grow and prosper.
Until we can meet again, enjoy your own Evergreen party with these cocktail recipes featuring our wild botanical spirits.
~ Spruce Tip Martini~
1 1/2 oz Verstovia Spruce Tip Vodka
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
Flake of Sea Salt
Stir with ice, strain into glass and garnish with a lemon twist
Cucumber, Wood Sorrel, Feta, Garden Herbs and Nasturtium
1 oz Cold Tree Gin
1/2 oz Salal Berry Liqueur
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Portland Bitters Project Cacao Bitters
Stir with ice, strain into glass
Wild Mushroom and Pork Pot Pie
1 oz Riverain Gin
1/2 oz Huckleberry Jam
1/2 oz Lime
Shake with ice, strain into glass
Grapefruit Panna Cotta with Salal Berry Coulis and Pine Nut Cookie