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Cheers! Would you like a Marquee or an Autumn Sage?

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Some of the ingredients in the Autumn Sage.

There were two bottles of gin on the table. Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said we were going to have a little experiment. One of the bottles was Liberator Gin from Valentine Distilling. (You can listen or read about the Cheers! visit to Valentine Distilling here.) The other bottle had a simple white label that just said Gin Batch #4. It looked as though it was from an ink jet printer.

“A friend of mine has some friends of his move out of town and they left behind some interesting products and one of those is this,” Tammy explained.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
New and the old versions of Valentine Distilling's gin.

What I missed was the small print at the bottom: Valentine Distilling Co. This was an early version of what later became Liberator Gin.

We test tasted both of them to see how it had changed. The newer gin is smooth, with a hint of cardamom and plenty of juniper as you would expect from a London Dry gin. The older version also had that hint of cardamom, but didn’t have quite the same taste of juniper. They were both good, but we decided the new version was definitely the better of the two. A closer look at that bottle revealed this was Batch No. 121. Valentine Distilling has had some time to tweak the formula.

The cocktail Tammy was mixing used the Liberator Gin. She was calling this mixed drink Autumn Sage.
“If it were in August, I’d be calling it the Summer Sage. If it were in the middle of winter, I might call it the Winter Sage,” Tammy said.

Originally, the drink wasn’t called any of those. Its real name is the Marquee.

She explained several years ago she was guest bartending an event at the Ravens Club in Ann Arbor. The Marquee was on the short menu she’d put together. No one ordered it. Later she mixed up a Marquee and her friends sampled it. They thought it was really good. The next time she changed the name to Summer Sage and it was the second best selling drink on the menu.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Tammy Coxen chats with Rifino Valentine during a 2017 visit to Valentine Distilling.

It’s a very refreshing drink that can be served any season. It includes just a little bit of salt which balances the Aperol in the drink and pairs well with the savory aspect of the sage. It’s also very simple to make.

Tammy has this tip: Smack the sage leaf you use for the garnish between your hands. That will help release the aroma as you bring the drink close to your nose.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
The Autumn Sage aka the Marquee.

  Autumn Sage
1 ½ oz gin
¾ oz Aperol
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup
2 leaves sage
Pinch of salt
Garnish: sage leaf

Combine all in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, strain into coupe or martini glass. Garnish.

Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham are the authors of Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers from the University of Michigan Press. The book is based on the Cheers! episodes heard on Michigan Radio.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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