Things have been a little quiet online here at Embury in the past couple weeks, but in the real world we've been busy mixing up cocktails for the many, many parties that occur during the Key West Literary Seminar. The theme this year, "The Hungry Muse: An Exploration of Food in Literature", meant the crowd was extra food savvy, and we took a cue from the kitchen for our cocktails. Kumquats, Meyers, agave & fresh-squeezed citrus dominated our creations . For the sort of crowning--or at least most flashy--moment of our ten-day journey of cocktailing we went to the rosemary section of the garden, pulling together a bristlingly fresh vodka gimlet with rosemary-infused simple syrup, and serving to 300 guests from the inside of at giant 1986 Airstream.
Brother Josh and his wife Bonnie had driven their Airstream down to Key West from Maine and when I saw it for the first time the idea of serving cocktails from it for one of the KWLS events popped into my head, fully formed. Josh and Bonnie were game, and thus we all embarked on a hairbrained scheme that was so crazy it might just--and in fact did-work. Batching massive amounts of a new invention, a Kettel One Rosemary Gimlet was the first step, but prepping the Airstream and scheming on how to best execute this. We decided to pop up outside the San Carlos, the auditorium where the Seminar takes place after Adam Gopnik's Keynote Address, and serve drinks from the trailer's kitchen window to guests as they exited the building. This required a test run prior to the evening's events to see if the 34 foot trailer would even fit in the loading zone outside the building. It did, and quite neatly thanks to Josh's really astonishingly good parallel parking skills. So we proceeded with the plan, crossing our fingers that our permit-free and doubtless quite, quite illegal endeavor would not land us in jail. When we pulled up a time hinged to when we though Gopnik's talk would end, we found half a dozen scooters parked in our spot--not assigning a team to guard it was a mistake. (It was a loading zone and they shouldn't have been there, but still--a glaring oversight in our cocktail heist). But after hauling them out of the way Josh got 'er nestled up against the curb and we set to fixing up 300 gimlets. And we served all of them, and got away without attracting attention from the cops. Somehow.
Moments before the storm. Airstream co-pilot Bonnie with Lauren Kincheloe, and Airstream Gimlets on the ready.
So this was the site awaiting Seminar guests as they exited Gopnik's talk (notes on that here).
1 1/2 Part Kettel One Vodka
3/4 Part Lime
3/4 Part Rosemary syrup
Combine ingredients on ice, shake well, pour over fresh ice. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary. If serving in large quantities simply batch all the elements together and shake each drink to order, pouring over fresh ice. And as always with big batches, mix it on the sour side to begin, and gradually bring up the sweet until it's right.
Separate the leaves from the stem of the rosemary. Start a good sugar syrup--equal parts water and sugar--anything from Sugar In The Raw, Turbanado or Demarara works nicely. Heat slowly, adding lots of rosemary and bringing the mixture to a low boil, keeping it there for about five minutes, stopping before the rosemary turns brown. Let the syrup cool in the pot to achieve maximum extraction. Strain before using.
Somehow I scored Lauren Kincheloe as my partner-in-crime (literally). Lauren cut her teeth bartending at Employees Only and helms the bar at Bar Marmont when she's not breaking various laws in the service of gonzo cocktailing. She came up with a couple original cocktails over the course of the events--we'll be running those recipe here this week.
Full recipes from all the parties will be posted here this week. For more on the Seminar itself check out Bone Island Book Blog for some fine crib notes on the panel discussions and readings from the week.. We'll also be featuring the recipe for tapenade crostini (for 300) from Lisa Esposito, who served out of another window of the Airstream.