I appreciate a good drink. A lot. In fact, I appreciate a good mixed drink more than any glass of wine or beer. There is serious creativity going into it, great potential for surprise, infinite possible combinations.
Some stand out and I will always remember- the Honeysuckle Champagne cocktail at Robuchon in London, the Red Sour at Crush in Seattle, the Indian Mojito at Vij's, Bryan Dayton's Stefania at Frasca in Boulder (I must take a moment to say I love Bryan!), and the Margarita that Jose Andres foamed up here.
They stand out because of a surprising ingredient - honeysuckle, a creative way of using wine essence- red wine syrup in Red Sour, an unlikely combination- Garam Masala in a Cuban drink, just a fabulous mix all around (Gin, St. Germain, Aperol, and grapefruit juice- I am drooling!), or well...the margarita because Jose Andres handed it to me.
You would think that it is a sad moment when one cocktail overshadows an entire dinner at a nice restaurant. But it isn't. It is a glorious moment, one that deserves celebrating and replicating over and over.
The Clear Tomato Consommé Martini at Kelly Liken Restaurant in Vail (Top Chef contestant most recently) did exactly that. It was so good that I can hardly remember the meal. It was outstanding- surprising and fresh, perfectly balanced,
Clear Tomato Consommé Martini
Ingredients: 2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, ripe; 2 garlic cloves; 1/4 cup basil leaves; 2 teaspoons kosher salt. And your vodka of choice.
Boil water in a large pot. Core the tomatoes and cut a little X on the bottom of each one. When the water comes to a boil, put the tomatoes in for 10 seconds. Remove quickly and cool in an ice bath. Cold water running over them in a large bowl also works.
Chop the tomatoes up and place them in a blender along with the garlic, the basil, and salt. Now the tricky part- get a very clean kitchen towel and place it over a strainer over a bowl. Ideally the towel would need to hang over the strainer so that the weight of the tomatoes pulled down to allow the tomato water to drain out. I moved the tomatoes around from time to time and squeezed the towel very gently. The danger is that the tomato water gets cloudy with red particles. After a couple of hours hanging you should get about as close to all of the tomato water out. If it is at all cloudy, rinse the towel well, wring it dry, and strain again.
This is what comes out of the straining- pure clear amazingly flavorful tomato water.
I liked an equal ratio of tomato water and vodka. You may adjust this to your own taste. Add ice, give it a good shake, and pour it in a fancy martini glass.
Add a few peeled cherry tomatoes on a toothpick and share it- or plan on going straight to bed after 4 of them- all good options!
Photography by Jennifer Olson (who shared one of these with me!).