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Cheers! Asparagus in your cocktail. Really?

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Using asparagus in a cocktail seems odd. I mean, if you throw it in with the messy mix of garnish in a garish, way over-the-top Bloody Mary complete with celery, olives, banana peppers, and bacon, okay, it might work. But, really, asparagus as a ‘real’ ingredient in a cocktail? Sounds weird.

Well, weirdly delicious.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings had a couple of bottles of spirits, some concoction in a plastic bottle and asparagus on the cutting board.

“You’ve got to find some way to get the asparagus flavor out of the stalks and into the glass,” Tammy said as she chopped up a couple of stalks.

She threw the pieces into a tin shaker and grabbed her muddler to “muddle the heck out of them.”

“Every bit of COVID related frustration I’ve had in the last year, I put into those asparagus stalks and now I’ve got them nice and muddled up,” Tammy said.

It was sheer violence against produce.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Once the poor asparagus pieces were mush, she started adding a little bit of gin and a little bit of aquavit.

The Michigan-made aquavit was from Norden. It’s a Scandinavian spirit we’ve used a few times in the past. (See here and here.)

The gin was new. Well, at least it’s the first time we’ve used it in a Cheers! episode. The Iron Fish Woodland Gin is unique. Not that there haven’t been Michigan gins that used all Michigan ingredients. The unique part of this gin is how they accomplished a lemony citrus flavor.

“What they’re using is the tips of Concolor fir trees, the little sprigs,” Tammy explained.

Distilling them brings a citrusy character which also brings a pine-y flavor.

“And it really is like a walk in the woods,” Tammy said.

The name of the drink is “Stalk &Trade,” from a San Francisco bartender named Brian Means. Tammy says she discovered it during research for supposed aphrodisiacs for a Valentine’s Day class. Turns out that asparagus was used in France as an aphrodisiac.

One of the amazing things about this drink is its neon green color.

“Whenever you muddle something fresh and green like that you kind of bust out all the chlorophyll and that’s going to make your drink really pretty,” Tammy explained.

Stalk & Trade
2 stalks asparagus, cut into pieces
1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz aquavit
3/4 oz ginger syrup (see below)
1/2 oz lemon juice
Garnish: asparagus spear
Muddle asparagus in bottom of shaker. Combine remaining ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake, double-strain into ice-filled rocks or Collins glass. Garnish.

Ginger Syrup – Combine 2 oz coarsely chopped ginger with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Gently simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool. Strain and keep refrigerated. Yield: ~5 oz 

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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