What botanicals are and how they have changed our drinks
Botanicals are spices, herbs, plants, used in the production of spirits such as gin and used in mixology to flavor and garnish cocktails.
Flowers, plants, test tubes, infusions: more than at a bar counter, in some places it seems to have come across the alcove of some mysterious alchemist. Between test tubes, infusions and smokes, the realm of mixology is becoming more and more scientific and complicated. Among the weapons on the drink list of cocktail experts are botanicals , among the trendiest elements to put in the glass. But what exactly are they? Let’s find out.
What are botanicals
The term botanicals refers to herbs, spices, plants, roots and flavoring substances , usually used in maceration in spirits (mostly gin ). After the distillation process, these ingredients are infused to flavor the liquid .after distillation the botanicals are infused to flavorIn the past, plant botanical elements were used to promote digestive functions or to protect the body from infectious diseases. Today, contemporary mixologists are recovering that mission by adding flowers, roots and plant extracts to their cocktails. In addition to mixing them in the glass, these elements are also clearly visible among the garnish . ” The botanical cocktails that go the most in this period – explains bartender Giacomo Fiume from L’Albergo Diffuso in Monopoli – are the Gin Tonic with aromatic herbs such as juniper, sage and rosemary. Bartenders use them to flavor their drink and to give a very special scent. Another trend is the use of bitters which are rich in spices: they are not easy to mix, but they often give the drink an added value ”.
The fundamental botanicals of gin
The most widespread botanical of all is juniper , which is used in the distillery in the form of berries. Its scientific name is Juniperus Communis , a term that refers to the conifer from which the main ingredient to create a real gin is obtained: the juniper seed (and not the berries, as is commonly thought). These seeds are juicy and, with their resin, give the gin its characteristic flavor. Without this little ingredient, the law prohibits any distillery from calling its distillate gin .
The second most important botanical is the coriander seed . It gives the drink in which it is immersed citrine, spicy and floral notes, which give the distillate body and intensity. If the seeds come from Morocco, they have a spicy aroma, with sweet and floral notes. If of Russian origin, they will push more on the citrine notes. Indian coriander seeds, on the other hand, have lighter scents.
Another popular botanical is angelica root . Native to Norway, this vegetable belongs to the Aspiaceae family (i.e. carrots). Infused into gin, angelica root adds an earthy note, with hints of dry wood. It acts as a trait-de-union between the various flavors of gin, holding them firmly together thanks to the dryness it adds to the distillate.
The other botanicals
In gin the botanicals are wasted. The Germanic iris is a botanical used as the angelica root, to combine the scents within the gin. It reduces alcohol volatility, keeping the different scents together and helping the distillate to stay intact for longer. Still, there are those who use over 30 for a single blend. And here comes the cucumber, blueberries, licorice, sage, elderflower, black pepper, cumin, chamomile .
Myrtle, thyme, mastic and fennel make Silvio Carta’s Giniu unique , for example. Brands run to look for the most disparate botanicals in order to create a unique and surprising product. Bottega degli Spiriti uses ocean water or seaweed to add a brackish note to its Beara Ocean Gin . For its Marconi 46, Distillerie Poli creates a unique infusion of juniper berries, muscat grapes , mountain pine, stone pine, mint, cardamom and coriander inspired by the Asiago plateau, north of the Veneto, from which it originated the family of distillers.“To achieve this goal we used Crysopea, our vacuum bain-marie still, which allows us to distill at low temperatures, thus capturing the freshness of each single botanical”Explains Jacopo Poli, patron of the Poli Distilleries and founder and curator of the Grappa Museum.
Not just gin: the other uses of botanicals
But gin is not the only distillate to be enriched with botanicals . The history of grappa teaches us this: for centuries the production of this distillate has also used plants, berries and resins to make the final result unique.also for grappa different botanicals are used and infused“ With regard to the botanicals used for grappa, it is more correct to speak of grappa with infusion ”, explains Poli. In fact, the specification allows the addition of aromatic plants or their parts, in which case this must be reflected in the sales denomination. “ In this sense, the most used botanicals are rue, licorice, blueberry and chamomile. Honey is also an interesting case ”, adds the master distiller. Companies like Poli use 30 percent of the volume of the bottle, creating a real energy drink. ” To balance the sweet sensation, in this case we use botanicals such as mountain pine, juniper, mint and fragrant verbena that give a pleasant balsamic sensation“. The scents of stone pine and mountain pine are among the most used to enrich mountain grappa. The technological game is that of infusion, so I could put almost anything inside. The same thing happens with hops and beer. This alcoholic drink can also be enriched with precious vegetal scents.
Using botanicals at home
To enjoy the aromas and aromas of botanicals even at home, Giacomo Fiume recommends two cocktails that are very easy to prepare. The first is called Oriental Pepper . 4.5 cl of cognac, 1.5 cl of tangerine syrup, 6 cl of citrus sour mix (including lemon juice), 4 or 5 pink pepper berries (preferably toasted), 1 and a half teaspoons of egg white are enough. To prepare it, pour the cognac, the tangerine syrup, the citrus sour mix and the egg white into a shaker. Shake for the first time. Then add the ice, toasted pepper and shake a second time. Pour everything into a cocktail glass. Optional, as decoration, peppercorns.
The second cocktail recommended by Rijeka is Wild Happiness . To prepare it you need 6 cl Sanbittèr Rosso, 3 cl fennel liqueur, 4 dashes of celery bitters. Preparation: pour the Sanbittèr Rosso and the fennel liqueur into a mixing glass, add two drops of amaro with fennel and two drops of amaro with celery, rigorously prepared homemade. Fill the mixing glass with ice and mix. Then, pour everything into a cup, which has already been cooled previously, and fill with the remaining Sanbittèr Rosso. As a garnish, decorate the base of the glass with a refined green satin bow accompanied by a sprig of fragrant wild fennel. Also, for those who want to give an extra creative touch, replace the crushed ice with a large square ice cube.