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Mud Season Cocktails
Face Maine's fifth season head on with these springtime cocktails
We may be late bloomers in Maine come springtime, but we do cherish each season. There is a fifth season we cherish the least: Mud Season.
Mud Season is that time between winter and spring, when the snow begins to melt and we don’t know whether we’ll be able to ski, sled, or snowshoe, or need to pull on our tall rubber boots and prepare for muddy puddles (that sounds like a fun name for something).
Forget even the thought of a car wash during Mud Season; just go and toss a $10 bill out the car window instead.
Mud Season conditions vary based on how slowly the snow melts and how quickly the ground begins to absorb it. Some years we wonder if this fifth season will ever end. But it does. A greening landscape, budding trees and blooming spring perennials are a welcome light at the end of the muddy tunnel.
To celebrate the anticipated arrival of spring, head over to Frontier Café at the old Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick. Frontier offers an alluring, colorful menu of house-made, infused local spirits and an array of bitters for their creations. Bar manager Erin Anderson has the perfect cocktail to go with our spring theme.
1½ ounces Stroudwater Bourbon
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¾ ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
A pinch cayenne pepper
2 ounces Urban Farm Fermentory Ginger Root Kombucha
Thyme sprig for garnish
Shake all ingredients except Kombucha until chilled, strain over fresh ice in a large rocks glass. Top with kombucha. Garnish with a thyme spring.
At first sip, savor the scent of thyme, followed by the taste of crisp lemon, tart Kombucha and subtle ginger. Then the peppery cayenne hits perfectly. This is refreshing. The bourbon is light enough to appeal to non-bourbon lovers, too.
Carrying on with the honey and lemon theme, make sure to stop at Split Rock Distilling in Newcastle. Matt Page and Topher Mallory source every ingredient from Maine to create their all-organic spirits. They reuse and recycle as much as possible and their operation is commendable.
Matt creates the Rock’n Honey with their SRD organic gin. Their gin is very aromatic, first with coriander and lemon, followed by pine and juniper (which for some can be overpowering); SRD does a very nice job with the balance.
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
½ ounce honey
A few dashes of persimmon bitters
2 ounces SRD gin
Combine lemon juice, honey, bitters, and shake, then add ice and gin and shake. Serve on the rocks with a lemon wedge.
This is grown-up lemonade. The aromatics in the gin and the fresh lemon and persimmon bitters pair beautifully. The honey makes it just sweet enough, but only to balance the tart lemon. Mix up a batch and go have a spring picnic.
If you appreciate cocktails with a light floral note, check out this cocktail on the menu at The Harbor Room in New Harbor, on the Pemaquid peninsula a few miles south of Damariscotta.
Taylor Corson, one of the owners, created this cocktail and named it after the children’s book by Robert McCloskey, Blueberries for Sal. Four of McCloskey’s nine children’s books were set in Maine.
Blueberries for Sal
½ ounce of blueberry purée
1 ounce Dolin Blanc Vermouth
½ ounce honey lemon thyme syrup
½ ounce elderflower liqueur
Fresh blueberries for garnish
Shake all ingredients except Prosecco and pour into a glass with ice. Top with Prosecco and spritz of lavender water over the glass. Garnish with fresh blueberries
The lavender spray is unexpectedly light and after the first sip of the cocktail, it’s tough to put the glass down. The sweet floral notes of elderflower are balanced by the slightly tart blueberry purée. Topped off with Prosecco, this cocktail is beautifully harmonious. Blueberries for Sal might just be your new go-to for a spring sipper.
My own creation for this springtime edition features one of the first perennials to pop up. Brightly colored, tart rhubarb. For a balance of sweet and tart, give this Cosmo twist a try.
2½ ounces Twenty 2 vodka
1½ ounces rhubarb simple syrup
½ ounce fresh lime
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice until chilled.
Rhubarb Simple Syrup
Makes about 8–10 ounces
4 cups chopped rhubarb (use the stalks that are the deepest red or pink in color, not green)
1 cup sugar
1½ cups water
Combine the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is very soft and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour the rhubarb through the strainer until most of the liquid is in the bowl. Press the solids a little with the back of a spoon to extract more syrup. If your strainer isn’t fine enough, use a piece of cheesecloth to separate the syrup from the solids.
Let cool for 10 minutes, and then pour into a bottle or mason jar.
Dana Moos is the author of The Art of Breakfast: How to Bring B&B Entertaining Home, as well as a former innkeeper and has spent many years dazzling her guests with food and drink.