This post is part of a partnership with Mountain Rose Herbs. All opinions are my own. You can learn more about my favorite purveyor of organic herbs & spices here.
Happy World Gin Day!
There are SO many ways to celebrate, with all the brands and varieties of gin available these days. One category I’m just beginning to explore is pink gin. Originally a type of cocktail involving gin and Angostura bitters (which turned the cocktail a lovely hue of pink), today the term also applies to a wide variety of pink colored gins flavored with botanicals like rhubarb, raspberry, gooseberry, and strawberry. I took a field trip down to Total Wine & Spirits in Danvers, MA this week (amazing selection of spirits!) and decided to treat myself to a lovely Spanish strawberry gin by Linton Hill. This gin is a wonderful way to spike some fresh, homemade lemonade, but to really celebrate World Gin Day in style, I decided to incorporate the exquisite flavors of saffron and rose as well.
My go-to shop for herbs and spices like saffron is Mountain Rose Herbs. If you haven’t browsed their amazing selection of herbs online before, you’re missing out! When I was still creating skin care products, I bought many of my ingredients there because of the quality and the huge selection. So naturally, when I began using herbs in my cocktail creations, Mountain Rose Herbs was the first place I turned for inspiration. You can find their certified organic saffron here.
It seems everyone has their own interpretation of what saffron tastes like. To me, it’s earthy, with a slight bitter edge that reminds me of turmeric, but with an unusual floral, honeyed sweet note and a certain complexity that’s hard to describe. Some people apparently also get a metallic sort of taste, but I definitely don’t get any of that. I read somewhere that someone described it as tasting like ‘yellow’, and although that’s about as abstract as you can get, I kind of have to agree!
Varying taste descriptors aside, the history of this super expensive spice is even more interesting. Cultivated for more than 3,000 years, saffron is the dried stigma of a type of crocus flower (crocus sativus). It was first cultivated in Greece and has been used throughout the ages and throughout many different civilizations as a spice, dye, perfume, and even as medicine. The priciest spice in the world is pricy for a reason – it takes 150 crocuses to harvest just 1 gram of saffon threads. That’s a lot of flowers! Fortunately a little goes a long way, and my saffron and rosewater syrup recipe below only needs a pinch.
Today’s syrup recipe is a bit different than most syrup recipes on the internet in that there are no pots or pans required. This syrup is what I would call a hot to cold infusion, where we pour boiling water over our botanicals like we would with tea, and then let them steep while cooling. There are delicate aromatic compounds in saffron that we want to preserve in our final syrup, so rather than heating the mixture on the stove and bringing it to a rip-roaring boil, we’re going to let this syrup infuse gently at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.
Saffron + Rosewater Syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 15-20 saffron threads
- 2 tsp rosewater
- Large glass measuring cup or heat safe bowl
- Fine mesh strainer
- Spoon for stirring
- Bottle or jar to store syrup
To begin, select a large heat safe measuring cup or heat safe bowl (or beaker, if you’re a nerd like me). Measure out 1 cup of white sugar and a pinch of saffron threads (about 15-20 is all you need) and add them your measuring cup.
Boil one cup of water and pour it over the sugar and saffron. Quickly stir to dissolve the sugar before the water cools off. Once the sugar is dissolved, allow the mixture to sit, covered, for at least 1 hour, or overnight (if you’re more patient than I am).
When your infusion is done, add 2 tsp of rosewater to the syrup and stir well. Use a fine mesh strainer to strain out the saffron threads and pour the syrup into a bottle or jar for storage. Keep in the refrigerator and use within 3 weeks. For a longer shelf life, you can add 2 oz of vodka or grain alcohol.
Now that you have an insanely delicious, ultra luxurious cocktail syrup, it’s time for a cocktail recipe!
Saffron & Rosewater Pink Gin Lemonade
- 1.5 oz pink gin (I used Linton Hill Strawberry)
- .5 oz saffron & rosewater syrup
- 2 oz lemonade
- (Optional) 2 oz sparking water (or champagne, if you’re feeling really fancy!)
Add the first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake until chilled and strain (or double strain if you’d prefer no lemon pulp in your drink) into a rocks glass filled with ice (or one large cube). Top with sparkling water and give a gentle stir. Garnish with a garden rose, saffron threads, and fruit, if desired. Cheers!