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You Had Me At Aloe… Cocktails

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According to Wikipedia, there are at least 299 types of aloe plants.  However, the only type of flowering succulent that interested me was the kind packed in that Trader Joe’s can high on the store shelf: aloe vera cozy in its own lightly sweetened juice.

Usually aloe vera is a plant on a kitchen window ledge, ready to be used for careless fingers suffering from a recent collision with a hot skillet. Here, at Trader Joe’s, the famous medicinal plant was ready for purchase. Dimly aware of all the “aloe cures what ails you” theories out there and having the usual single-mindedness, this hapless bartender considered the product in only one way – could it be put to good use in a cocktail?!

The first combination tried wasn’t an easy one because there was very little whiskey in the jar – the only thing on hand, in the brown spirits family, was a corn whiskey.

I started with a variation on the classic whiskey sour with the above Tuthilltown Corn Whiskey, opting for appearance perhaps rather than performance. Corn whiskey, an unaged spirit, a neonatal Bourbon so to speak, results from a corn mash that doesn’t spend any time in the oak cask required for a bourbon. Corn whiskey is a strong taste against which the delicate aloe syrup struggled; add more if desired. The taste, well…but it looks great.

With apologies to Todd Rundgren, I give you the Aloe, It’s Me:

2 oz. of corn whiskey
1 tbs. of fresh lemon juice
1 tbs. aloe vera syrup (lightly sweetened)
1 tbs. of superfine sugar

Combine in a cocktail shaker with a cup of ice. Shake until a frost forms on the outside. Strain into a sour glass (looks like a small champagne flute) for straight up sour or strain into a double old-fashioned glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a maraschino and lemon wheel of course!

Because of the color and consistency of the aloe vera, both the plant and its juice, it worked very well with vodka, a neutral spirit. I experimented along the lines of the Dirty Martini motif.

With apologies to Jim Morrison, I give you the Aloe, I Love You:

2 1/2 oz. of vodka
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
2 oz. of aloe vera lightly sweetened syrup

Shake (not stirred) with ice in cocktail shaker until frost forms on the outside. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

And here is where the aloe lends itself to a distinctive cocktail in a surprising way.

The consistency of the diced aloe is a bit odd – on the rubbery yet tender side, gelatinous really, brings to mind a jellyfish, but it looks so attractive. On the hors d’oeuvres pick above, the diced aloe looked like little ice cubes in the martini.

One more variation on the Aloe Martini, one actually approaching Cosmo territory, I bring you my favorite of the evening. 

With apologies to Carol Channing, the Aloe Dolly:

2 1/2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. cointreau
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. aloe vera lightly sweetened syrup
dash of Orange Bitters

The Aloe Dolly had a sophisticated combination that both tasted and served conversation well: “What’s in your drink?!” So, with no apologies to Renee Zwelleger or Tom Cruise, and quoting Jerry Maguire again, we weren’t trying to make history here, just a little cocktail fun with a medicinal plant. 

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About Kate Shea Kennon