Thirsty Writer, Libations Marketer
Late summer’s bumper crop of ripe tomatoes is perfect for sauces, salads, and yes, cocktails. Beyond the classic Bloody Mary, chefs and mixologists have been using tomato water as an ingredient to capture the very essence of the fruit at its peak. Case in point: L’Espalier beverage director Erich Schliebe’s Nightshade cocktail, which was served at chef Frank McClelland’s recent Apple Street Farm-to-Table Tomato Dinner in Essex.
Schliebe describes his inspiration: “When tomatoes are great, there’s a wonderful balance of sweet, acid, and texture. McClelland noted that the final product mimicked the flavor of a still-warm yellow tomato, with Lillet for sweetness, lemon juice for acid, and brandy for body. “We added tomato water to reinforce the idea, and basil to give it something simpatico,” added McClelland.
You can get a taste of the Nightshade at L’Espalier and Sel de la Terre in Natick, or you can try your hand at home mixology with Schliebe’s recipe.
2 basil leaves
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce brandy
3/4 ounce Lillet Blanc
1 ounce tomato water*
2 dashes orange bitters
In a mixing glass or shaker tin, muddle basil leaves. Add lemon juice, brandy, Lillet Blanc, tomato water and bitters. Add ice and shake. Strain in to a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a Sweet 100 tomato and a husk cherry.
For the Tomato Water: In a food processor or blender, purée about four pounds of ripe red tomatoes with a tablespoon of salt until they resemble a coarse purée. Pour the mixture into a large piece of cheesecloth and secure and tie the ends to form a sack. Using a wood spoon, suspend sack over a bowl and drain for at least eight hours. Do not squeeze the cheesecloth sack. Discard the cheesecloth and reserve the tomato water in the bowl. It will keep covered and chilled for four days in the refrigerator.