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Flavored simple syrups offer endless possibilities for drinks and gelatin molds. After enjoying the unique gelatinous merging of basil with blueberry lemonade and vodka and fig and cardamom cream with rum, I have continued to create various syrups with fresh herbs, spices, and dried fruits. To experiment with flavor combinations, I paired the syrups with juices, fruits, teas, club soda, tonic water, and occasionally booze (see the lemonade with thyme and strawberries pictured below).

In the midst of this enjoyable summer experimentation, a few combinations stood out as potential gelatin molds. (Yes, there are more herb-infused gelatins to come!) This gelatin mold consists of lemons, thyme, sugar, club soda, and vodka. A few of my friends winced at the mention of thyme in a gelatin mold, but after tasting they understood. The thyme compliments the lemons and vodka, while the sugar and club soda provide a sparkly sweetness.

 

 

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This gelatin mold is based on my new favorite cocktail of the same name. I first learned of the Bramble in The New York Times Style Magazine article written by Toby Cecchini (the object of my latest foodie crush). Cecchini describes my ideal cocktail – gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and a blackberry liqueur called crème de mûre. Oh yum…

The Bramble, popular in England, is relatively unknown in the states. Especially Austin. My continual attempts of ordering it result in well-intended blank stares. I resigned to purchasing crème de mûre and making it myself when mixologist Alfonso started working at my neighborhood bar, the fantastic Dolce Vita. Alfonso (pictured right) not only knows how to make the Bramble, he adds a few twists like a dash of soda and the occasional coating of the glass with absinthe. (I’ve yet to develop a taste for absinthe, but my friend Monti claims it’s a worthy addition.) Needless to say, Alfonso’s version reins as my favorite summer cocktail.

To transfer the Bramble to a gelatin mold, I created a simple syrup of water, sugar, lemon juice, and stewed lemon zest. After blooming the gelatin in water and dissolving it in the hot syrup, I added gin, club soda, and crème de framboise. (My usually well-stocked liquor store does not carry crème de mûre, so I went with the raspberry equivalent.) The resulting taste competed with the cocktail – but I need to tinker with ingredient proportions before it’s truly berrytastic.

See this mold featured on Delicious Links at Apartment Therapy The Kitchn.

I’m a huge fan of the show Mad Men. Not only do I adore the show’s style, acting, and social commentary, I’m fascinated by the cocktail-centric world it depicts. In honor of Mad Men’s 4th season premier, I created the Don Draper gelatin mold.

The Don Draper is based on an old-fashioned, a cocktail consisting of bourbon (Don preferred Canadian Club whisky), sugar, water, dash of bitters, twist of lemon (or orange), and a cherry. It was a challenge to convert an old-fashioned into a gelatin mold, but I think I’m finally figuring out the magic cocktail-to-gelatin formula.

Recipe for 3.5 cups

  • 2 packets knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ water
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of one lemon (approx. ¼ cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ¾ cup bourbon
  • 6 dashes of aromatic bitters, or to taste
  • 1 cup strained maraschino cherries

Put ½ cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon syrup, and return to saucepan. Reheat the syrup, and pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in bourbon and bitters. Note: if bourbon is cold, it will reduce the amount of time needed before adding cherries.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the cherries. Stir in cherries and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

See this mold featured on Relish Austin, Addie Broyles food blog on austin360.com.

Flavored simple syrups, like the ones described in this article by Addie Broyles in the Austin American Statesmen, are the key to creating complex and unique gelatin molds from scratch. Here I combined homemade basil simple syrup, 100% blueberry juice, blueberries, lemon juice, sugar, water, club soda, and vodka. The resulting taste was like summer in gelatinous form – tart, sweet, and herbalicious.

Recipe for 3.5 cup mold

  • 2 packets gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming*)
  • ¾ water (for syrup)
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of one lemon (approx. ¼ cup) with zest reserved
  • ½ cup 100% blueberry juice
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • ¾ cup vodka
  • ½ cup club soda
  • ½ cup blueberries

Put ½ cup of water in a small bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside. (*This is called “blooming.” Blooming allows gelatin to absorb water and thus dissolve easily when added to hot water.)

Put water, blueberry juice, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add lemon zest and basil leaves. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon/basil syrup, and return to saucepan. Bring to boil, remove from heat, and add the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in cold vodka and club soda.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the blueberries. Stir in berries and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

My lovely friends enjoyed this tart and boozy mold.

The classic drink that inspired this mold is a favorite of my friend Bindiya. Made to commemorate Bindiya leaving Austin for the summer, it took several trials (and a lot of gin!) to create a mold I was happy with. Unfortunately, she left before I ultimately created the mold seen here.

To make this mold, I adapted a Nigella Lawson recipe published in the New York Times. (I was not happy with the recipe results, so I changed ingredient proportions). The resulting taste was perky (thanks to the lemon juice and stewed lemon zest), sweet, and slightly effervescent – perfect for the blistering Austin summer.

Per Bindiya’s request, I used lemons instead of limes. Blueberries were added because I love the fantastic merging of blueberries and lemons.

If you’re a foodie geek like me, you may enjoy learning the history of the gin and tonic.

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