I am a martini person. Gin. Hendricks usually. Straight up. Not super-dry. Extra olives (in case you’re ordering). I always have at least two martini glasses in the freezer waiting to be plucked out at the last possible second so that they still have that frozeny-chilled look to them when I take my first icy sip, but when my garden is overflowing with delights of all sorts, I break out of my regular ‘ole martini rut and start making funky drinks.
I first read about the Kachumber cocktail a few years ago here. I think I searched all the things that were flourishing in my garden + the word ‘gin’, or maybe I went looking for more things to do with the cucumbers that had gone unnoticed along their trellis and had morphed into warty zeppelins.
You don’t really need pretty cucumbers to make Kachumbers, but you do need adventuresome friends to share them with. This is a shocking drink, almost like an appetizer, which I find people either think is the most delicious thing they’ve ever tried or they make a horrid face, a quiet “ecchh!” and shove it right back at you (in which case, I drink theirs too).
The other night we had a few of our most adventuresome guests Cory & Tony and their daughter Francesca (aka Chess, aka The Little Peanut, aka Princess Dragon Slayer) over. In addition to appreciating a good Ducati, they like a good bottle of wine, a bit of an adventure and an impromptu dip in the pond as much as we do.
Tony is a fantastic cook and, like me, loves to share what he makes. Cory knows as much about garden-y stuff as I do and much to my delight requested a garden-tour as soon as she arrived. Tony whipped up his world-famous lasagna, which may not be a classic combination with corn and smoked ribs, but it worked out perfectly.
We it came time for cocktails, I was really not to be stopped; I had my mind set on making Kachumbers and had my drink making station
already set up when they arrived. My husband is not a huge fan of the “girlie drink” – as he calls anything that disrupts his pure alcohol with a little sugar or tint of color – but I always manage to force him into one or two of my experiments per season. He humors me.
When making these little chartreuse, cilantro-flecked cocktails, I use whatever hot pepper seems to be ripe enough in my garden, but if you’re shopping in a grocery store (as opposed to in my garden), then jalapeño is an easy choice. Habenero would probably pack an atomic wallop and Anaheim might be a tamer choice if you want to adjust.
A nod to Tabla restaurant, who legend has it, invented this cocktail. Tabla serves it over ice, which I think is a waste of a good drink. They also use Plymouth Gin, which I think is a waste of good juniper berry. Instead I prefer my girlie-gin, Hendricks, but maybe I’m just too pretenti…um, precious about my gin. In fact, like the shape of the cucumbers, it doesn’t really matter what gin you use.
2 half-inch chunks of cucumber
1 slice of cucumber (for garnish)
10 leaves fresh cilantro
2 half-inch slices of fresh green chili (any medium-hot chili, such as jalapeno)
1 3/4 ounce gin (I use Hendricks, but the gin is not the star of the show here)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (I just toss a spoonful of sugar and water in a measuring cup and heat it up in the microwave and let cool)
1. Put the cucumber and cilantro in a cocktail shaker. Take the handle of a wooden spoon and bang up the cucumbers until the get a bit soggy and the cilantro breaks into bits and people start saying, “Yum, that’s smells delicious!” (about 2 minutes)
2. Add the rest of the ingredients plus ice cubes and shake. My advice about martini-type drinks is to sing Happy Birthday twice while you shake vigorously. This guarantees you a cocktail with those icy crystals that make your mouth water and fools your mind into believing that this sort of beverage is actually thirst quenching.
3. Strain into a chilled martini glass and toss in the cumber slice at whatever jaunty angle floats your boat.
Take your boots off before you come in here!