The spirit of the season

Cucumber is the perfect addition to your gin- and vodka-based favourites

While using vegetables as a cocktail ingredient may sound unorthodox at best, there is one that deserves defending on a number of fronts: the cucumber. Known for its crisp and refreshing vegetal taste, the humble cuke can lend a unique flavour to everything from simple highballs to the fanciest martini. Here are a few recipes to tentatively bridge the realms of salads and alcohol—and to help you use up that pile of cucumbers you got in your veggie box from Nature’s Route Farm.
First, you can use cucumber to spruce up a basic G&T. Just pour an ounce or two of gin over ice – Tanqueray or Gordon’s are best in this mixture – then top with tonic water, a squeezed wedge of lime, and a couple slices of fresh English cuke. If you’re using a field cucumber for this or any recipe, be sure to thoroughly wash the waxy skin and remove the large bitter seeds before dropping into your glass. To switch things up, try using vodka instead of gin for a less sprucey or medicinal taste, or stir a sprig of fresh mint into your cocktail if you have some handy.
Cucumber also works well as a stylish ingredient or garnish in some higher-shelf cocktails. If this is your style, try mixing up a “gin garden,” an elegant blend of two parts gin to equal measures of apple juice and elderflower liqueur, all shaken with ice and a bit of peeled and crushed cucumber. For an extra treat, use Hendrick’s gin, a smooth and exquisite Scottish juniper spirit infused with numerous botanicals, rose petals and – you guessed it – cucumber.
As elderflower liqueur is a bit pricier and harder to come by – though I highly recommend trying it at least once in your life – you can swap it out for another sweet, fruity addition of your choosing, such as melon liqueur, apricot brandy or even peach schnapps. Alternatively, you could forgo gin entirely and use a Cuban white rum or an ice-cold vodka in its place—just don’t forget to add a dash of lime.
Lastly, it would be foolish on my part to neglect the original cucumber-infused cocktail: the Pimm’s cup. Named for the unique English liqueur that acts as the central ingredient, the Pimm’s cup is essentially sangria made with a gin base in place of wine. To make your own, fill a glass with ice, a few slices of cucumber and various fruits – anything from lemons, oranges, limes, strawberries, raspberries, and melon – then top with equal parts Pimm’s No. 1 and ginger ale and garnish with a mint sprig. As with sangria, feel free to make entire punch bowls of this refreshing beverage, and try adding proportionate amounts of gin or ginger beer for a respective boozy or spicy kick.

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