Growing up, I never understood the true difference between dried herbs and fresh herbs.
Oregano is oregano is oregano, right?
And if not, please pass the Old Bay.
But in the many years since I blanketed my crabs, potatoes, corn on the cob, and all else spice-worthy, I've come to love the wonderful whiff that emerges when you finger a basil leaf or rub a spring of mint. The aroma is unmistakable, and irreplaceable.
The gateway herb, I think, must be basil. Dried basil is a sham of an imitation. The difference is so distinct, even the most stalwart doubter must concede: fresh is different.
After basil, perhaps a novice herb-lover meets dill. Then maybe cilantro, which is entirely different creature from its dried and ground seed counterpart, coriander. And yes, definitely oregano.
But lately I've been thinking about lavender. While it calls to mind Bed, Bath & Beyond and the assorted soap and candle gifts my teacher mom would tote home around the holidays, lavender is so much more than a bath scent.
And now I live in Europe, where lavender feels suitable than ever.
This past Saturday, at the farmer's market, I bought the little bundle of lavender pictured above for 1€ – about $1.25.
It's a little more dried than ideal, but it would do for what I had in mind: lovely summer drinks.
First: simple syrup, a friendly name for sugar water made from simmering equal parts water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves.
I removed the pot of simple syrup from the stove and stirred in a pile of lavender. I wondered if it was too much. In retrospect, it was probably too little. The lavender notes are delicate.
And then comes the fun: mixing the lavender simple syrup.
I tried a variation on a martini:
- two slices of lemon
- 1/2 ounce vermouth
- 2 ounces lavender simple syrup
- 1 ounce vanilla vodka
All shaken with several ice cubes, then strained.
It was too sweet for me, so I added a few dots of bitters. Gin would be better, I think. The vanilla vodka is a bit much, but if your sweet tooth is leading the way, it may be just right for you.
Take two, above.
Fill a glass with:
- 2 or 3 thick slices of either lime or lemon, squeezed
- a few ice cubes
- 1 ounce lavender simple syrup
Top off the glass with water.
Stir. Savor. Sigh.