In our last Lounge entry, we asked you to muddle some lemon balm. Lemon balm? What the heck is that? Well, it's one of the herbs we are currently growing in the cocktail garden and one of the better ones to drink! So let's try some originals with it.
First I decided to make syrup with it. All the base recipes I found referred to the herb as Melissa (which ends up being its genus name). It has a great backstory. Melissa was a mountain nymph who saved the Greek god Zeus from a cannibalistic attack from his father Cronos. Pissed, Cronos zapped Melissa into a worm. Thinking that punishment was too harsh, Zeus zapped her into a bee instead. Today "Melissa" translates into "bee" in Greek. The lemon balm plant's little white flowers draw bees, thus the genesis for its genus.
Anyway, last year I had already used lemon balm straight up in syrup. It was interesting in a kiddie-cocktail-sort-of-way, since it tastes like liquid Froot Loops. So this year, I tried to perfect a more versatile, more adult tincture. Here's the recipe:
Melissa Pink Syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 ounce vanilla (7.14.11 - amount adjusted)
1 ounce Benedictine
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
15 lemon balm leaves
5 drops of neon pink food coloring
Mix water, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, Benedictine, and nutmeg in a heated sauce pan. Reduce to desired syrup consistency. Take the pan off of the heat. Add lemon balm and steep for 5-15 minutes, the longer the more strong and bitter the balm adds to the flavor. Strain all the liquid through cheesecloth. Discard the lemon balm leaves.
The result is pretty, lemony, and a great compliment to mint and honey (echoing Melissa the bee once again). We like Melissa Pink syrup in the gin sour below.
2 1/2 ounces gin
2 ounces Melissa Pink syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Shake all ingredients and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon slice, lime slice, or a sprig of spanked lemon balm.