Friday, May 29, 2015

Lemon Mush; Bitter Lemontini

Lemon Mush is the super haute couture name for a preparation of lemon that I like to use in drinks when I want a more bitter and full lemon taste. Instead of using the juice of the lemon, Lemon Mush is made solely of lemon rind and white sugar. As a result it has a dry and bitter flavor as opposed to the sour flavor of lemon juice.

To make Lemon Mush first peel an entire lemon. Don't be afraid to get the pith in there as well. Most bartenders will tell you to avoid the pith because it has a much more bitter flavor, but the entire point of Lemon Mush is that it is a more bitter and concentrated lemon flavor than lemon juice, so don't worry about it at all.

Combine the rind and pith with 2-3 barspoons of white sugar and muddle thoroughly. The end result should be a literal mush. Unfortunately I had only had one lemon left and it was both a little old and very frozen--apparently it had been sitting too high in the refrigerator. As a result it didn't really want to mush very well. But still you should have something of at least this consistency:

Don't worry about peeling the rind in small pieces, when I peel a lemon for mushin' I usually end up with six big sections of rind per lemon. You're really going to grind this guy down, so the starting size doesn't matter. Plus the more cutting and whittling you do, the more lemon oil escapes before you get the peel into the cup. A fresh lemon will turn into something with the consistency of porridge or oatmeal.

It's also really important to use white sugar here and not simple syrup. The granules of sugar are essential to the muddling process as they help grind up the rind and pith.

This does take a little time and elbow grease so it's not the best drink if you are in a rush. That being said it isn't so much work that you can't comfortably make a round for friends.

Next you want to combine the mush with your gin and dry shake (shake without ice) to get all of the lemon oil and pulp that's been flying around in there mixed with the gin. Finally add the vermouth, stir with ice, and double strain using both a Hawthorne strainer and a very fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. I love my OXO Good Grips Mini Strainer, not only is OXO generally the best of all time forever, but it has two layers of fine mesh so you really don't have to worry about the pulp getting in your drink.

Bitter Lemontini
- 1.5 oz dry london gin (Plymouth is best if you have it, which I don't right now)
- 1.5 oz dry vermouth
- 1 lemon's worth of lemon mush (see above)
 Stir with ice and double strain into a martini glass. Do not garnish.

The photograph has a lemon wedge garnish. I included this for the sake of the picture, I actually don't recommend using a lemon wedge in this drink. The sour flavor of lemon juice will quickly overpower the dry bitter flavor of the rind and pith. I also used my Wormwood Wine/Vermouth recipe here, it's decent if you want an extra bit of tang, but Martini dry vermouth balances the drink out a lot more.

Finally, you may be wondering why there is so much vermouth. The very oldest recipes for Martini's were equal parts gin and vermouth (please don't use vodka), and I wanted to stick with that for this recipe. Don't be afraid, the vermouth really fits the bitter lemon flavor very well. 

Hope you like it!

Vlad N.

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