Posted on April 20th, 2011
The smell of freshly cut grass has always been one of my favorites. Usually accompanied by a warm summer day, the anxiolytic odor of mowed lawns has a great effect on my mood and almost always leads to a smile. Here in the Northeast we have just emerged from a particularly terrible and odorless winter, and I probably won’t be huffing any cis-3-hexenal for at least another month. So to bide my time, I set out to create some cocktails that evoke certain feelings associated with grass, landscaping, and general bucolic splendor.
Further inspiration came from the photosynthesis activities we have recently been peddling at the local science museum. The majority of these involve extracting leaf pigments through grinding or heating in rubbing alcohol. When I ask the visitors “isn’t that such a pretty green?” I’ve been temped to add “now if that were vodka instead of isopropanol, I’d drink it– what about you?” Between the visual and olfactory stimuli associated with most greenery, I started to feel strongly that the world was ready to be intoxicated by both grass and vodka at the same time.
Having been recently bequeathed a glass aquarium by my pet mouse, I decided to use it to grow my own mini-lawn for infusion purposes. I added about 5 inches of dirt and sprinkled in about 1/4 cup of wheat berries I’d soaked overnight. About 3 days later I had shoots and roots, and within 10 days the bright green wheatgrass was peeping over the top of its container.
While my grass was growing I Googled around a bit to see if anyone else has made chlorophyll the star of an alcoholic beverage. I’ve enjoyed many a Zubrowka-based cocktail, but I was looking for something more crude and intense. As it turns out, Homer Simpson invents a drink called the Lawnmower in the episode “When You Dish Upon a Star” and offers one to Ron Howard:
Ron Howard: Do I smell vodka… and wheatgrass?
Homer Simpson: It’s called a Lawnmower, I invented it, do you want one?
Ron Howard: Yeah, okay.
And in real life, there is a place called OLIVER Cafe– with locations in Beverly Hills, LA, and Orange County– where you can get the paradoxical and unpleasantly-named “Low-carb Wheatgrass Martini.” But overall it seemed that grass and booze make for strange glassfellows. I’ll admit, I was egged on knowing that the combination fell somewhere in the broad spectrum between Homer Simpson and a bar that serves cocktails claiming to defy the age of your skin.
My first try was a passive infusion of bruised wheatgrass in a small jar of vodka. I let it soak for a few days and then strained out the pale green liquor. I was disappointed by the faintness of the color, and how the vodka fumes overpowered any grassy hints. I added some honey and lemon juice to take the edge off, and then mixed myself a wheatgrass vodka and soda. It was refreshing, and I was definitely aware of the grass, but it was too dilute. A more robust method of extraction was needed and, since I don’t like the idea of boiling vodka, I turned to the blender.
During the three days of infusion time, my mini-lawn had filled out again and I collected several generous fistfuls of grass, packed them into my blender, and glugged in about a quart of vodka. I thought about putting it in pulse mode, but I just hit the puree button and watched as shockingly green liquid was kicked up by the blades– a Lawnmower, indeed! The gust of air that burst out of the blender when I pried the lid off was so ripe with the sweet odor of leaf aldehyde that I knew the boozy cud wouldn’t require any further steeping. I strained it well, shook in honey and lemon to taste, and had a sip straight out of the jar. It was everything I’d wanted– pungent, vibrant, and unique. Be sure to keep it in the fridge, and shake before use in the following cocktails, as well as in any others you might invent:
The Anal Neighbor
Wheatgrass infused vodka, ice, and soda. Neat and tidy, just like your neighbor’s obsessively well-manicured lawn– and a good escape from the sound and fury of their landscaping machinery. Every time they hit a rock, drink!
The Cud Buddy
Wheatgrass infused vodka on the rocks. Beware of some minor colon-cleansing consequences especially if you are, as I was, a wheatgrass rookie.
Wheatgrass infused vodka, High West Silver Oat Whiskey, lemon juice and pinch of powdered sugar. Shake well with ice, and serve in a Collins glass with straw. Fashion a little dome-like cover out of handy materials so it looks like the drink is inside a silo. At this point you should probably also make a little red barn out of a tissue box to place the drink next to.
Cue up the song “Brothers in Arms” by the Dire Straits. Combine wheatgrass infused vodka, lemon juice, powdered sugar, and egg white in a shaker. Add two Hawthorne strainer coils and shake without ice for a minute or two, then add ice and shake for another minute. Strain into a Collins glass and top with soda. Press play and watch the fizz layer slowly materialize as Knopfler begins to sing “these mist co-vered moun-tains…” Understand that the song is about war, sigh deeply, and then turn your thoughts to how respiration is pretty much photosynthesis in reverse.