Among my many long-term goals is to train a bay laurel into a standard. I want it to look like a child’s drawing of a tree: stick + ball. This year’s seasonal pruning was harsh, and yielded more fresh bay leaves than ever. Given that one man can eat a finite number of pots of soup between prunings of his bay laurel standard, something had to be done.
The answer, as always, was booze.
In a 1L mason jar, I infused 40 fresh bay leaves in 750ml of vodka. Everything I’ve read suggests that this won’t work nearly as well with dried bay leaves, and works better still with bay leaves that are still tender on the plant – which is what my pruning produces primarily.
After 4 weeks I strained the leaves out. The colour had changed quite substantially, and the aroma was definitely bay.
As an aside: I had no problem dumping an entire bottle of vodka over a garden herb in an unproven experiment, because vodka is stupid.
The next step was to add the sugar. Internet recipes suggest blending the infusion with simple syrup on a 1:1 ratio. But for a liqueur, I didn’t want to water down the bay flavour (or dilute the booze) quite that much, so I did it slightly differently. First, I reserved 500ml of the infusion. The remaining 250ml of infusion I gently heated with 250ml of water, 450g of sugar, and the bay leaves. It simmered for 10 minutes, and then I let it cool before straining and blending it with the pure infusion.
The result is excellent. Even straight! It should, apparently, improve after a month of aging in the bottle. Given that I have more than a litre of it, I’ll get to test that hypothesis.
I’m eager to try it in myriad cocktails, but the first thing that sprung to mind was to build on the herbal flavour and have it with a really herby gin. I happen to have been gifted a nice bottle of Monkey 47, which I keep around for just such whims, and I’m sure it would be equally excellent with something like Hendricks or Gin Mare. In this cocktail, stay away from gins that make you think of blueberries and sloe and rhubarb. Nobody wants to drink fruit punch spiked with cucumber and bay leaves.
2 inches of cucumber, chunked and muddled
2 oz Monkey 47 gin
3/4 oz bay leaf liqueur
dash celery bitters (optional)
Shake, strain, serve. Fantasize about sitting in the shade of that bay laurel tree.