This is a drink I created for the Italian restaurant Morandi, whose chef, Jody Williams, insisted on a hard-spirit ban for their prosecco cocktail menu to avoid overpowering the delicate flavors of the food. At first I was doubtful of this approach, but it turns out a lot of great cocktails fit this food-friendly bill if we just open ourselves up to using culinary elements in mixed drinks.
- 1 anjou pear, washed
- 1 Lemon wedge
- 3 fresh sage leaves
- 1 dried pitted purple plum (also known as a prune)
- 1 teaspoon honey syrup (recipe follows)
- 4 ounces frizzante prosecco, chilled
- 1 part bottled or filtered water
- 1 part honey
1. First, prepare some pear-shaped pear slices. Stand the pear on end, with the stem up. Cut long 1/2-inch-thick slices from the top through the poles of the pear. Remove any seeds. Squeeze the lemon wedge over the pear to prevent the fruit from turning brown.
2. Now, make the drink: In the bottom glass of a Boston shaker, gently muddle 1 of the pear slices with 2 of the sage leaves, the plum, and the honey syrup. Hold a bar spoon in one hand and use the other hand to slowly pour in the prosecco, using the spoon to gently pull the other ingredients up from the bottom of the glass. Strain through a tea strainer into a chilled flute.
3. Finally, garnish the thing: Choose a pear slice based on the size of your glass. The fruit should look like it belongs. If you're serving in a little glass, for example, use the smallest pear slice. Cut a slit in an appropriate-sized slice, and tuck the remaining sage leaf in there, using this slit to hang the pear slice on the glass. Be sure to let the fruit hang into the glass, where it'd doing some good in flavoring the drink, instead of on the outside of the glass, where it's doing nothing much except waiting to fall onto someone's dress. Note: If the pears are cut in advance, keep them in a mixture of lemon juice and water to avoid browning.
Honey is a great flavor for some cocktails - I think it pairs particularly well with whiskey and makes for a great whiskey sour. But honey itself is too thick to use, so you need to thin it to a syrup. I usually use honey syrup with another sweetener to avoid an overwhelmingly honey flavored drink, unless the cocktail is very grapefruit-oriented or otherwise extra-tart.
For cocktail use, I suggest sticking with good old clover honey and staying away from strong flavors. Exceptions are wildflower honey, which can be truly lovely in a botanical-oriented cocktail, and a local honey paired with other local ingredients, which will not only create a local-flavored drink but also may help combat allergies.
In a saucepan, warm the water. Turn off the flame. Add the honey and stir until completely combined. You can store this in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week. Or you can leave it on the kitchen counter, and it'll ferment into mead, which is something different entirely.