Of Cravings and a Fizz

 I have been craving citrus. It's a sure sign of spring. Almost every year without fail, once the sun starts to stick around more, for about a month or so everything I make or order has citrus juice in it. After a long dark winter, it seems natural to rebel, to distance myself from all those earthy, rich brown spirits. Mind you, I never really stop drinking barrel-aged spirits, I just drink them differently. For example, in the heart of January I wanted a Toronto, but now I am making Blinkers and Volsteads. The transition may seem extreme, but crazy things happen when the sun finally decides to come out. And who are we to doubt our cravings.

Cravings are weird things to consider. Completely intuitive, instinctual even, they link us to our animal selves. Most people probably don't even think twice about it--what they really want deep down. They just order without thought. But we all know that amazing feeling of wholeness when we truly satisfy a certain craving maybe that we didn't even know we had, or that feeling of utter disappointment when nothing on a menu seems exciting or even remotely interesting. For the past two years, I have been tracking my cocktail cravings. It changes how you think about yourself on more than one level. I have learned that I am almost completely predictable. But I've also learned that no matter how much time I've spent keeping track of  the patterns, and not just the easy seasonal ones, I still couldn't tell you what I would want to drink at any particular time. Each time I sit on a stool, or browse the Internet looking for a recipe, the entire process is just as unconscious as before.

We have these ideas about ourselves and our tastes, but if we look closely how much do we really understand? How well do we really know ourselves? It's such a subjective question that it almost seems silly to even posit. If someone asked me what I usually drink in the winter, I would have said without hesitation  mostly rye and bourbon. Then I really sat down and checked. While it was true that I did drink primarily rye and bourbon, that's not all I found out. This year I also had a momentary fling with scotch-based cocktails. And very frequently I found myself sipping on a cocktail that starred a barrel-aged rum or tequila. And I did quaff quite a number of Old Tom Martinez cocktails. So, what does it all mean? Maybe it means that what I crave in those dark winter months has nothing to do with whiskey, and everything to do with vermouth, or maybe just all things brown, bitter and stirred. It is hard to know for sure.

One thing's for certain, a craving can turn just as fast as the weather. Just as once my mind was full of whiskey, now I find myself pulled toward limes and lemons, grapefruits and oranges. And the flip side of all that citrus is the sweetener. I, at least, can't have one without at least a little bit of the other, whether that means a liqueur or syrup. Just because I found myself biting into my lime wedge garnish the other week, doesn't mean that it was completely satisfying. Balance is best, and syrups provide so many options. For instance, I have this cilantro syrup that goes marvelously well with citrus. It's very tasty, but also very subtle, and therefore needs a well-chosen drink to properly showcase its flavors without overpowering them. I chose the Silver Fizz and was tremendously pleased with the results: delightfully smooth, crisp and herbal. It was exactly what I wanted, and that kind of surprised me as well.

Silver Fizz

1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce cilantro syrup
1 egg white
1 ounce club soda

Dry shake ingredients. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled Collins glass. Top with club soda.

Notes on Ingredients: I used No. 209 gin because of its herbal complexity.

Cilantro Syrup

1/4 cup loosely chopped cilantro
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan, stirring initially to dissolve sugar. Bring to a simmer for about a minute. Remove from heat, add cilantro, and cover. Let steep for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a heat-safe container and let cool to room temperature. Optional: Add one ounce vodka as a preserving agent. Store in the refrigerator.

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