I've had some pretty good drinks in the past couple weeks, and wanted to showcase cocktails from three of the more interesting places I've had them.
Thursday night, I had the Summer Silk (formerly the "Maïs d'Été") at Marseille in Manhattan, as part of their Corn Festival -- all the restaurants in the Tour de France Restaurant Group were celebrating sweet corn this week, one of my favorite parts of any summer. The menu includes several corn-based dishes (I greatly enjoyed the charred corn salad and the roasted scallops with jalapeno-corn mousseline and popcorn beurre blanc), but also features two corn drinks. Aviram Turgeman, Beverage Director for the Tour de France Restaurant Group, told me that since the chefs were featuring corn in their menus, he thought he'd come up with a corn-based cocktail.
The Summer Silk is a bourbon sour, and I thought the most interesting twist was that the drink is sweetened with a housemade corn-silk syrup -- not the high-fructose variety that sweetens sodas and the like, but a simple syrup that tastes like just-picked sweet corn. Turgeman said that he originally experimented with corn purees, but that "the starchiness of the corn in a puree almost gave it a dairy consistency" that was undesirable in a drink. Going back to the drawing board, he "basically took the silk from the husk and cooked it with water and sugar. And surprisingly enough, the syrup smells and tastes like freshly-boiled corn. Mixing that with bourbon, which is made mostly of corn, was a given to me. The oloroso sherry is in the drink mainly to give it an oxidated note, and it's a way to facilitate the alcohol there; I could have gone with 2 oz. bourbon, but the bourbon would have dominated it, and I wanted to give it a little more roundness and nuttiness. The pineapple juice gives it the texture and the froth, and the Peychaud's bitters were because they're all-American, just like the corn." The drink's garnished with a few caramelized popcorn kernels, another unusual touch: "I tried to slice the cob and make a wheel on the edge of the glass as a garnish, but that was a little over the top, and I wanted an edible garnish", Turgeman noted.
I didn't quite find the sherry flavor in there, but I get that it modifies the drink, and it does kind of harmonize the various moving parts. Turgeman noted that he has to be careful when he makes the syrup, because some batches come out with more or less corn flavor, so he reduces it as necessary to make the sweetness and corn flavor consistent across the batches.
- 1 1/2 oz. Woodford Reserve bourbon
- 1 oz. housemade corn silk syrup*
- 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. pineapple juice
- 1/2 oz. Lustau oloroso sherry
Shake well with ice and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and finish with 3-4 small dashes of Peychaud's bitters floated atop the froth. Float 2-3 caramelized popcorn kernels as a garnish.
*Corn Silk Syrup
Combine 1 quart (400g) fresh corn silk, 1 quart water, and 1 quart sugar, and stir occasionally while bringing to a boil. Once boiled, lower the temperature to a very low simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from stove, cover with foil for 30 minutes, strain into a clean container and label. The liquid should be amber and smell like corn, and will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days.
Turgeman also came up with a non-alcoholic corn-mint lemonade which I didn't try, but which sounds good: place 10 fresh mint leaves in a mixing glass, add 1 1/4 oz. of the corn-silk syrup, and muddle well. Add 1 oz. fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 oz. cold water, and 1/2 oz. pineapple juice. Shake well with ice, and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with a mint leaf sandwiched between two caramelized corn kernels on a cocktail pick and serve with a straw.
The Corn Festival ends after tonight, but Turgeman says the Summer Silk and Corn-Mint Lemonade will both be available at Marseille and Cafe d'Alsace for at least a few more weeks, until the end of summer.