When in the mountains during the summer time, drink as mountain dwellers do—with the front door open so friends and neighbors can stop in, shoes kicked off, with all the camp chairs out so everyone can hang.
And of course, bring out a bottle of lemonade sumac infused vodka to really bring home that mountain charm.
After tasting the aromatic and tart lemonade sumac infused water from last weeks blog, I knew I had to make a vodka infusion to bring my adult beverages up a notch. So, with sticky fingers, I picked about 1 cup of lemonade sumac berries - Rhus trilobata (also called skunkbush) for Monday night.
I rummaged through my haul, removing the stems and husks of old berries, then poured them into a large mason jar along with 750ML of Skyy Vodka (sub for whatever you prefer). Using a long spoon, I muddled the berries to help release their flavor. I then took to the task of relaxing on the sunny porch to finish a book, shaking the bottle whenever I thought to do it.
After soaking for about 2 hours, I poured the concoction through a small wire sifter, removing the large berries. I then did a second pass through with cheese cloth to remove most of the remaining pieces of berry—although there was a bit left over, I ignored it. You can continue to sift through cheese cloth if you’re unsatisfied with the clarity.
The remaining infused vodka had a yellowish, pink hue, and a fragrant aroma, which you might recognize from certain Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes featuring the sumac berry.
The beauty of infusions like this, is it gives you the freedom to create drinks that suit the flavor ofwhatever it is you’re infusing. More of a gin and tonic person? Try infusing your favorite gin with these aromatic berries for a unique take on the perfect summer cocktail.
Monday night rolled around, phone calls went out, and just like that we had a small gathering of gals for an afternoon drink in the warm summer night.
The fragrance of the berries is the first thing that stands out to me, and I wanted to create a drink that captured that, while also standing up to the tart finish.
And really it boiled down to what I had on hand—sweet cherry juice concentrate, and cherry flavored Dry Sodas (http://www.drysparkling.com). The sweet, and demure flavor of the cherry turned out to be a perfect backdrop to the aromatic lemonade sumac vodka.
In wine goblets, I poured 2 ounces vodka over ice and added about 1 ounce of cherry juice concentrate (more or less to taste), and topped with the Rainer Cherry flavored Dry Soda.
True to form, Briana Wiles, wildcrafting expert, plucked various edibles from outside, including pineapple weed - Matricaria discoidea to be muddled with the vodka, imparting an herby and sweeter flavor into her drink. Then, we topped it with wild chamomile - Tripleurospermum spp. and sweet clover - Melilotus officinalis which added the perfect touch of mountain-summer beauty to her glass.
If that wasn’t enough, we even made straws out of horsetail - Equisetum spp. for sipping our mountain inspired beverages. Drinks suited for mountain maidens like ourselves.
And they would probably pair well with an icy cold PBR too, because we’re in the mountains, after all.
—-Photos and article written by Cayla Vidmar of Rooted Apothecary