Every spring I can’t wait for the lilacs to bloom. It is a thing for me–a sign that spring is truly here. It always seems as if the smell of lilacs can animate a place. It is as if the yard feels flat and incomplete until it fills up with lilac fragrance. Then, and only then, does everything really to come to life…even before the container gardens start to overflow, before it is warm enough to eat dinner outside. When the lilacs bloom even the birds notice and start singing more clearly.
I was especially looking forward to the lilacs this year because last fall I had seen a lovely mocktail recipe, Lilac Bloom, in Shake. Its combination of lilac blossoms and ginger jumped off the page at me. I had one of those heart-stopping moments in which I realized that I had been living life all wrong up to this point because I had not been consuming those beautiful little fragrant flowers. How, oh how, could I have lived this long and not put lilacs in anything other than a pretty vase (having properly split the stem, of course)?
So, since the day I bought that book I have been counting down the days until my lilacs bloomed. Of course, my neighbor’s bushes bloomed before mine. I considered a covert operation, slipping into their backyard dressed in black and pruning all of their blooms–but their motion-detector light caught me.
So I had to wait.
And waiting is really not my strong suit.
But, eventually, this little guy appeared. I gave him an extra couple of days to fully open, encouraging his growth with the promise that I would make a kick-ass cocktail out of him.
And I was not going to let that darling bloom down with anything less that a delightful cocktail.
So, I decided to take some inspiration from Shake’s Lilac Bloom, but I didn’t just want subtle lilac in the drink…I wanted a strong, sweet lilac flavor.
The answer? Lilac simple syrup, of course!
Having learned from producing WAY too much imperfect violet simple syrup last go-round, I decided to make a small batch of lilac simple syrup to start with.
So I picked two small panicles, rinsed them gently, and then pulled the smaller clusters off the stem.
Use equal parts sugar, water, and lilac blossoms.Heat the sugar and water over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Then add the lilac blossoms and simmer for 10 minutes. If you like, you can add a few blueberries or blackberries in order to add color to the syrup.
For the cocktail itself, I was aiming for a light, fizzy, warm spring day sippable concoction. I loved the idea of the Shake recipe mixing ginger and lilac, so with a bit of experimentation I came up with the following recipe.
Just for fun I decided to make some ice cubes with lilac blossoms frozen inside to use in place of a lilac garnish. While they are delightful, they are certainly not necessary.
3 shots Hendricks Gin
1 shot lilac simple syrup
1 shot fresh lemon juice
Fresh ginger slices (to taste)
2 droppers Hudson Standard ginger bitters
Lilac ice cubes1. Muddle the ginger slices, simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin together at the bottom of a shaker.
2. Add ice and shake it, shake it, shake it.
3. Strain mixture over lilac ice into glasses.
4. Add a dropper of bitters to each glass and top off with seltzer.
5. Drink up, ideally whilst lounging in the backyard next to a lilac bush.