Hunny Vermouth steeps her Bloody Mary liqueur for two months but tastes it every week for spiciness, pulling out a little horseradish or cayenne as she sees fit. When I ask for the recipe, she responds, “Well, first you have to grow and harvest the tomatoes, the beets and the peppers.”
Combine equal parts urban farmer and cocktail connoisseur, add a jigger of underground DIY sensibility, and you’ve got yourself an illicit liqueur CSA, providing members with a monthly bottle of alcohol (usually vodka, bourbon or rum) that Hunny’s infused with herbs, spices, nuts, flowers, fruits and/or vegetables. In summer, members might receive a bottle of Cucumber Basil, Ginger Grapefruit, or Elderflower liqueur. For fall, Sour Cherry and Wild Plum are in the works. Come winter, Spiced Herbal Bourbon redolent with black tea, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and cardamom can spike a hot toddy or be reduced for a caramel sauce to serve over flan.
Hunny’s an urban farmer by day, but she doesn’t grow all the aromatics herself. Rosemary cuttings come courtesy of her mother’s three-year-old bush, Meyer lemons from trees planted by her former professors at UC Santa Cruz, fair-trade vanilla beans via the Park Slope Food Coop, wild plums are harvested by a friend who’s an organic farmer, and Artemisia are collected in the California wild. As for that Bloody Mary liqueur, Hunny’s horseradish is harvested from her nagyapa’s plant (that’s “grandpa” in Hungarian) but she’s grown all the other ingredients herself. She’s especially proud of the Early Girl tomatoes that she sun-dried along with the peppers before grating the horseradish and roasting the beets.
The results are sublime, but membership has other privileges, including invitation to the monthly cocktail parties at which shareholders collect their 32-ounce bootleg bottle. At the April pickup, Hunny’s waiting with a glass of Cardamom Limoncello in hand, ready to serve us after a hard day’s work in the urban jungle. A trio of cocktails featuring the new liqueur arrive on trays in mismatched Mason jars alongside finger foods by Betty Brooklyn. We take the first sip of the month and smile; the cocktails are aromatic, nuanced and just plain delicious.
Hunny’s not the only one who’s taken a nom de booze. A woman originally from Ethiopia introduces herself as Bellini; she’s brought last month’s bottle back for a refill (it made the rounds at a few dinner parties). A New Zealand transplant going by Hell’s Bells starts a game of Exquisite Corpse with an artist called Dark & Stormy who runs her own supper club. Dirty Goldschlager, a DJ and birding tour guide, suggests they all swap cocktail recipes next month. Sentences overheard include: “we’re incorporating our farm,” and “I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the fermentation festival,” and “we’re so fun and fabulous,” spoken by Hunny herself.
We leave with our handcrafted liqueur in tow, slightly buzzed, feeling fabulous indeed. Next month, we’ll pull out a party dress for the pickup.
Three- and six-month memberships are available as are cash bars for local fundraising events. Visit www.sisterliqueurs.blogspot.com.