I'm not usually one for overtly savory cocktails, and I never imagined that tomato leaves would inspire my foray into bitters making. But here I am.
Thanks to my friend Rachel who has a green thumb and generously gifted me tomato starts this past summer, I ended up with two delightfully plump tomatoes accompanied by heaps of luscious tomato leaves. Seemed like as good of a time as any to experiment with bitters. These leaves were too gorgeous to let go to waste.
Despite it being almost November by the time I got around to writing about this recipe, the weather has been delightfully blue-skied (when not foggy), and the leaves are just so bright I keep forgetting that summer isn't just now turning into fall. Sure there is a nip in the air, but my snapdragons are still blooming, so there's that.
This version of tomato leaf bitters is deeply earthy, finishing with bright citrus notes. Before winter sets in, give it a whirl. Pairs well with brisk walks through crunchy leaf piles.
Tomato Leaf Bitters No. 01
1 cup tomato leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup lemon grass, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 sprig spicy oregano
1/2 teaspoon gentian root
2 cups 100 proof vodka or Everclear
Place all of the ingredients except for the vodka and simple syrup into a quart-sized mason jar. Pour in the two cups vodka or more as needed to cover all of the ingredients. This is the one instance I will condone the use of Everclear. Seal the jar and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight, though preferably in plain view. You will need to agitate the jar once a day, and I find the visual reminder goes a long way.
After two weeks, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a clean quart-sized mason jar. Repeat as necessary to remove any sediment. Squeeze the cheesecloth over the jar to release any excess liquid and transfer the solids to a small saucepan. Seal jar and set aside.
Cover the solids in the saucepan with water. Bring to a boil then cover the saucepan, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. After the saucepan has cooled completely, add all of the contents of the saucepan to another quart-sized mason jar. Store both jars at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for one week, agitating the jar with solids daily.
Almost there! After one week, strain the jar with the liquid and the solids through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a clean quart-sized mason jar. Repeat as necessary to remove any remaining sediment. Discard the solids. Add this liquid to the original liquid.
You're in the homestretch now! Add the simple syrup to the solution and stir to incorporate. Cover and shake the jar vigorously to fully dissolve.
Thoughts on cocktails? You bet I've got some! Depending on how adventurous you are feeling, try out one of my suggestions below. I image any cocktail that you are currently enjoying with celery bitters would benefit from swapping in tomato leaf bitters.
Salut to Summer Lemonade: build in an old fashioned glass 1 oz. gin, 1/2 oz dolin dry, healthy dose of tomato leaf bitters, then top with limonata. Garnish with a sprig of fresh time.
Kick up the savory with the Limonata Italiana: build in an old fashioned glass 1 oz. tomato leaf-infused vodka, 1/2 oz dolin dry, healthy dose of tomato leaf bitters, then top with limonata. Garnish with a sprig of fresh time. Not for the garlic shy.
Keep it classy with a Green Boulevard: build in an old fashioned glass 1 oz. gin, 1/2 oz dolin dry, 1/2 oz. St. Germaine, and two dashes tomato leaf bitters. Garnish with a lemon twist.