That was day before yesterday. Maybe one of the last possible days to enjoy a pomegranate-ginger smash—a lemony, minty, sweet-tart concoction served over crushed ice—even in Richmond, Virginia. October 21st is way beyond the date of wanting such a thing in Vermont—the place where I lived for seven years before plopping myself down here exactly one month ago.
The views. They’re from the balcony off of the second floor bedroom in our new home. Starting from the top: looking out to the left toward the parish house and Father Wayne’s back courtyard; straight ahead to the large magnolia tree in our own courtyard, which will be magnificent next spring; over the tree tops to the stately, prior school building, now condominiums, the next block over (which you could make out better if the top portion of the photograph wasn’t blown out); then over to the right at a slight angle to some of the courtyards of neighboring buildings; and finally, the bottom image, to the far right out beyond our neighbor’s matching Juliet balcony and beyond to nearby rooftops, my favorite view.
The drink. It’s a hold-over from Jerusalem days: the thread being the use of pomegranate molasses. (The recipe is below.) I came up with this cocktail back in mid-August with the plan of photographing it soon after and posting it on the blog—in perfect late summer timing for a crushed ice and fresh mint cocktail. But I soon became overwhelmed with packing and preparing for our move to Virginia; shaking up a cocktail all of the sudden seemed less important when you’re faced with packing a household of stuff.
About the move. Everyone has been asking: Why Richmond, Virginia? Well, Mike and I were both ready for a change and we thought, as long as we’re moving, why not move somewhere with a different culture, different food, and maybe, if we’re lucky, a different accent. Plus, I’ve long romanticized the south, and loved southern cooking.
I learned to appreciate southern cooking from my paternal grandmother, Josephine, who was from the south (as were previous generations of our family going way back); when she moved north for work during the Depression, she was the first of our family to leave the south in more than 300 years.
When I was at an impressionable age—from five to nine years old—my family lived in Winchester, Virginia. I even picked up a southern accent, which I lost quickly once we moved out of the south. (Teasing school children can be the cruelest of all people.)
We lived in Virginia from 1969 to 1974. It was an interesting time. There were seeds of change—like the back-to-land movement (my parents were friends with a long-haired back-to-the-land couple who grew their own organic food and had chickens and other farm animals)—at the same time that remnants of the old south, including a greater number of people with southern accents, remained to greater extent than they do today.
In my childhood sphere of experience, that meant grand old homes without central air that were mysterious and still on summer days with floor to ceiling drapes shutting out hot sun. It meant exploring the old town streets in my bicycle, with wafts of boxwood and the incessant sound of cicadas filling the air. It also meant going to a black Baptist church with Mary, a black women who came to our house once a week to help my mother with domestic chores and minding me and my older sister. I went to Mary’s church because I wanted to see what it was like, and because my mother said it was fine for me to go. I remember feeling dumb-stroke by how different it was from our white Presbyterian church.
(Check out this link to part of an Eddie Izzard skit about the difference between black and white churches.)
Mary was much more than a maid. She was wise, kind, and forbearing, and an important part of my southern experience. One day I asked Mary if her blood, underneath her dark skin, was the same color as mine. It’s hard to imagine not knowing the answer. But I didn’t, and Mary didn’t make me feel bad for asking the question. Her answer made me feel relieved because I liked her so much and wanted her to be made of the same stuff as me.
Southern cooking. The club has long moved beyond Jerusalem and is feasting on food from The Korean Table, a wonderful book written by a good friend of mine, Debra Samuels. It’s the perfect segue book to my new/not-so-new Southern cooking environment: there’s bbq, pickles, fried chicken wings, even boiled peanuts. (A recipe for boiled peanuts is not included in The Korean Table, but Koreans do make boiled peanuts. I swear it!)
Once I meet some food/cookbook lovers in my new town, I hope to get my own group of club members together. In the meantime, there’s Korean food to be cooked and enjoyed. I’ve finally unearthed my own copy of The Korean Table from one of the forty boxes of cookbooks the movers slogged south.
This cocktail isn’t the prettiest color. The pomegranate molasses lends it a reddish brown Coca-Cola−like hue. However, if you’re a fan of the dark liquors, like myself, you will not be deterred.
2 lemon wedges
4 to 6 fresh mint leaves
1 ounce ginger syrup (recipe below)
½ ounce pomegranate molasses
1¾ ounces rye whiskey
1 sprig fresh mint, for garnish
Fill a rocks glass with crushed ice. Muddle the lemon wedges, mint leaves, and ginger syrup together at the bottom of a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Add ice, the pomegranate molasses, and whiskey. Shake vigorously and strain into the rocks glass. Garnish with a mint sprig and a short straw.
Notes: If you don’t already have a bottle of pomegranate molasses, you can get it at a kosher shop or Middle Eastern food store. Everything else may be grabbed at your local market and liquor store.
For the sake of appearances, I like to double strain this cocktail to keep small flecks of mint from entering into the drink. Double straining simply means using a small fine-mesh strainer in addition to your cocktail strainer. If you don’t mind a little bit of mint of your drink, one-handed single straining is your method.
Makes 1½ cups
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 (4-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and add the ginger. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain into a clean glass jar or bottle, pressing against the ginger with a rubber spatula to extract as much flavor as possible, and store in the refrigerator. Use within 3 weeks.