For the first time today, I garnished a drink with a vanilla bean. And it cost 36 cents. I can’t even begin to describe how much aroma a vanilla bean has, so as most writers do, I’m going to do it anyway. It’s both spicy and sweet at once, reminding you of apple pie and ice cream, sipping warm cider in the fall, and delightfully jiggly crème brûlée.
And until a week ago, this ingredient was saved for only the specialist of dishes, like Thomas Keller’s pear sorbet or in a pine nut crust for a lemon curd tart. Never had I considered buying it for cocktails, let alone using one as a garnish. Then one day I asked Tiare from A Mountain of Crushed Ice where she got the fortune to purchase the wad of vanilla beans that has appeared in many of her pictures. She’d even garnish a cocktail with three whole vanilla beans! The response was mind-bending, “Oh, Ebay; they’re cheap.”
I almost didn’t believe her, but I checked, and they are. I ordered 1/2lb of Grade A Tahitian vanilla beans from Vanilla Products USA. They arrived in two days. They are of the highest quality, beautifully aromatic, and packed with oodles of flavor.
Having made a batch of raspberry syrup for last week’s TDN, and more specifically for Tiare’s Funkin’ Raspberry, I thought this would be a perfect excuse to use my new vanilla beans.
- 2oz dark Jamaican rum (used Gosling’s – tried with Coruba and it masked the syrups)
- 1/2oz maraschino liqueur
- 1oz lime juice
- 1/2oz raspberry syrup (recipe below)
- 1/2oz vanilla syrup (recipe below)
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- ginger beer, to top
- vanilla bean, for garnish
Add all but the ginger beer and vanilla bean to a collins glass. Fill with crushed ice, top with ginger beer and stir for 10 or so seconds to chill. Position the vanilla bean so you can get its aroma with every sip. Note: when you’re done, rinse off the bean and add it to your next batch of vanilla sugar.
Rick from Kaiser Penguin
The Gosling’s and maraschino give this rich potion a dark funkiness, while the raspberry syrup and ginger beer brighten it up and make it fruity. The vanilla brings all of this together as each sip is met with the aroma of the garnishing bean. This would be the perfect fall drink if raspberries were in season.
- 4 vanilla beans
- 2c sugar
- 1c water
Quick Method: Scrape the seeds from the pods and add them and the pods to a saucepan with the sugar and water. Simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 2 hours. Remove the pods and strain.
Long Method: Add the whole vanilla beans to 2c sugar and put in an airtight container for 2 weeks to a year. Remove the beans, add sugar and 1c water to a sauce pan and heat only long enough to dissolve the sugar.
- 1c fresh or frozen raspberries
- 1c sugar
- 1/2c water
Add ingredients to a sauce pan and simmer for 20 minutes or until the berries are broken down and a bit syrupy. Strain to get the seeds out.
- What are your favorite cocktails with vanilla syrup?