I met Courtney Webb a couple weeks ago and right off the bat, she was saying all the right words to me: chai peanut butter, white truffle mayonnaise, lovage soda syrup. Let me elaborate. Courtney is a Nashville native who moved to New Orleans to study architecture, then moved to New York for a good long while, where she became a part of the artisan community through markets and exhibits. In the end, New York was the right place, the wrong time. But it was bad timing that lead her back here to us in Nashville and she brought with her all the unique goods that she discovered in the city.
Her shop, Hey Rooster General Store, opened in April. It's a small, sea foam green building with a yellow door on Gallatin Avenue, meticulously filled with things that are anything but general: beer and pretzel caramels, Chai peanut butter, handmade cutting boards, pickle brine, and nine different flavors of mayonnaise (does that make your heart flutter a bit too?).
And that's where we come to lovage syrup. Lovage is an herb that grows in moderate climates all over the world and was once popular as a cordial that was said to ease the symptoms of jaundice, rheumatism and sea sickness. These days it's hard to come by. It looks and smells like the inner leaves of celery heart, but has a deep and spicy note like watercress or arugula, a flavor that is perfectly suited to balance out richer concoctions. I've been hoping to cook with lovage all summer, but have been deterred by the fact that it refuses to grow in my little driveway garden. The only place I've been able to get my hands on it in any form is at Hey Rooster.
This cocktail is based on the Ramos gin fizz, which originated in New Orleans in 1888 at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon, the "palace de palate, coarsely called a bar" owned by Henry C. Ramos. The classic version is flavored by orange-flower water, egg white and cream. But don't you be deterred by that and don't you omit it either. The cream and egg work together to make the drink sumptuous, the way a root beer float is a pleasing combination of creamy, fizzy and foamy. My version is flavored with lovage instead of orange-flower water, making it a little more savory.
One final suggestion regarding the gin fizz, from Henry Ramos' obituary in the New Orleans Item-Tribune, September 1928: "Pause a moment...before you...[sip]...one of these snowy white, velvety fizzes so that you might add the great pleasure of anticipation to the greater one of consumption. Pause and consider in awe the fortune about the befall you..."
Lovage & Gin Fizzyields one cocktail
adapted from The Boys Club
1 cold large egg white
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce lovage syrup
1/2 ounce half and half
4 ice cubes*
cold soda water
1. In a mason jar with a lid or a cocktail shaker, shake (here is how) egg white for 30 seconds or until you see bubbles form.
2. Add gin, lemon juice, lovage syrup, half and half and ice cubes and shake for another minute, two if you're feeling ambitious- the original recipe says 12.
3. Strain into a glass (a highball if you have one) and top with soda water; start with 1/4 cup and adjust to taste.
*I used the kind of ice you buy in a bag at the gas station. If you think your ice is larger, err on the side of fewer cubes.
Hey Rooster General Store is located at 1106 Gallatin Avenue in East Nashville and is open every day except for Tuesday.