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The Benjamin Wayne Smith – garlic as a cocktail.

Posted in Food, and Food & Entertaining

Photo by Hannah Waddingon
Photo by Hannah Waddington

Garlic is an interesting vegetable. Its flavour and pungent after-effect divides people into those who do ‘do’ garlic and those who don’t ‘do’ garlic. I used to be one of the latter – loved the taste, but the smell would suffuse my body for days after I ate it. I could feel it fizzing in my blood. I was once sent home from my Saturday morning job at a clothing store because of the aroma I was emitting. “Love garlic too”, said Vaughn, “but let’s face it darling, garlic and fashion just don’t go.”

Over the years I tried to figure out what it was with me and garlic, turns out it is simply a question of how your body reacts to the sulphuric compounds that garlic releases when eaten raw. When garlic is cut or crushed it releases allicin which breaks down further into a variety of organosulfur compounds. These escape through breath and your pores – in the latter, mingling with perspiration: causing you to become full-body aromatic. Not really fair when you consider that, like onions, shallots and chives; garlic is a member of the lily family.

But, I was a travelling girl and no-one needed my stink on bus, plane or train.

489314184_XSSo I avoided it  – until one fine post-50-something day when I discovered it no longer made me pong. See, getting older has its upside. Now I use it all the time – in part because it is a key component of Mediterranean cooking which I love, in part because of the health benefits and, in part, because I love it.

Sofamother does too – and eats it unashamedly whenever she can. Most memorably at my surprise 50th dinner when my parents, sofabrother and I went to to a posh restaurant that had one of those 8-course set menus, but with options. We all agreed we would allow each other tastes until Glennie’s starter came. A garlic tart – as small as a sliver of the bulb, with golden puff pastry underneath it and, apparently, delicious. I say apparently because “No WAY I am sharing this”, said my mother.

While we were in McGregor over the holidays I roasted a lot of garlic. Adding it to dressings, mayonnaise, marinades. No recipe necessary – you literally pop it into a hot oven until it is soft and squish it out of the papery skin that surrounds each clove. Dollop some into a vinaegrette, or mix it with the oil that you have roasted tomatoes in, add a little lemon juice and some salt to emulsify – and use it as a dressing. Jumbo cloves work best as the little ones tend to disappear. Roasting takes the sting out of garlic and mellows it down to a sweet hum.

Now to the serious stuff. As you know, I love gin too – so I was delighted to stumble on this little gem of a cocktail in “Delancy: A man, a woman, a restaurant, a marriage,’, by Molly Wizenberg. It was (kind-of) invented by her friend Ben. I say kind-of because he learned about it from a cowboy, which made me love it even more. You literally throw cheap gin,  a peeled , crushed clove of garlic and a couple of grinds of black pepper into a cocktail shaker with a bunch of ice cubes. Shake until frosty, strain into a cocktail glass and add the crushed clove as a garnish. Molly tells it better than I could so I hope she will forgive me for (literally) taking a page out of her book:

photoMy first run at the cocktail ignored Ben’s advice to use cheap gin – I used Inverroche’s Verdant – and it was not a good match. Way too floral so I pitched that out… sadly. Then I found a bottle of Gilbey’s lurking at the back of the cupboard and tried that. Oh, perfection.

Now, a gentle warning. I was alone when I made this cocktail. And alone as I drank it contemplating the star you see above. Which hangs in my garden in McGregor. And alone when I woke in the morning. Which was just as well because I think that somehow the gin enhanced the smell of the garlic. I can’t find any evidence to back up that claim, but there was a hint of the aroma hanging in the air in the morning. But, I didn’t care. And I still don’t. It is definitely on repeat in my repertoire. The gin picks up the flavour quickly – so manage your exposure to suit your taste,  and be generous with the pepper: it adds an earthy kick.

Wizenberg suggests washing your glass out with a light vermouth if you want to create a ‘proper’ martini. I tried with the drizzle that was left in the cocktail shaker and she was right. Adds a little sweetness to the original.

By the way – ‘Delancy’ is a great read. She covers everything in the title with honesty, smarts and gentle wit. And has some kick ass recipes to boot.

This definitely one of them. And, now that I think about it – I may have to take a run at that garlic tart soon too.

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  1. Ellie Toffolo
    Ellie Toffolo

    Superb !! I’m so glad you wrote this – I adore garlic and I’m really looking forward to the garlic tart recipe……..and will toast you with a Benjamin Wayne Smith!

    January 29, 2016
  2. Absolutely love garlic – add it to everything I can, if I think it suits. And now I know I can make cocktails with it too 🙂

    January 28, 2016
  3. This is my kind of post! Firstly because I love garlic raw, roasted, crushed, mashed, stir-fried – however…(just before her wedding 6 yrs ago my daughter and her girlfriends went to a cocktail bar in London where every drink contained garlic – that’s a bit extreme even for me), and secondly because you mention Delancy – My DH and I started our married life living on Delancey Street in Camden Town where we spent three very happy years. You’ve brought back so many memories

    January 28, 2016
  4. Glenis

    Sue Lovey, Jackie gave me a recipe for garlic tart which she highly recommends “as fabulous”. I have not, as yet, tried to bake it. Next time in McGregor!!!!!!!!

    January 28, 2016

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