The Lazy Gardener has to be one of my favorite simple cocktails. It is a copycat recipe from the potently flavorful Korean fusion restaurant Revel in Fremont, Seattle and uses Rachael’s Ginger Beer – another Seattle gem. Revel’s food is mouth-watering and memorable and if you are ever in the neighborhood, please do yourself a favor and make the time to get a meal there. It’s amazing. The Dungeness crab noodles and short rib dumplings are everything. I digress.
The Lazy Gardener takes some time and prep work to pull off, but once the ingredients are all in order, the drink comes together very quickly. You can also easily make it in pitcher size to save time while hosting.
Lazy Gardener Recipe:
Pint glass – Ice to the top
Cucumber Infused Gin – 1 Shot (I’ve done 2 and the ratios are still quite tasty)
Mint Infused Simple syrup 1 tsp or to taste
Rachael’s Ginger Beer – to fill glass
Cucumber Slices to garnish
That’s it. HOWEVER, the process to get the ingredients together does take about 3 days, so you will need to start a few days ahead of when you want to drink and/or serve them if you can bring yourself to share.
Here is the full project ingredient list if you make the gin and simple syrup from scratch. (The simple syrup can be purchased and infused and I will discuss that further below in the Mint Simple Syrup preparation section.)
750mL Gin – your preference of brand, but the less intense the botanical profile, the better your cucumber infusion will come out. I’ve used New Amsterdam, Booker’s and Oola Distillery (yet another Seattle local if you want to make it local all the way!) and they have all turned out well. The New Amsterdam is the lowest price point with a rather neutral botanical profile and even it is damn tasty after the infusion. Ask Eric.
Cucumber – 2 medium or 1 large for Gin, 1-2 (any size but small – medium works best on the picks) for garnish depending on number of servings.
Fresh Mint – 1 pound. If you’re having a hard time finding this much fresh mint, I’ve used as little as a half a pound – 8oz – and it turned out fine. Less minty obviously, but still quite tasty and usable. The general ratios from my survey of recipes seems to be something like 1:1:(1.25-2 ) Water:Sugar:Mint, so there is clearly some room here for variance in your mint ratio depending on what you have available. My amount is taking in to account that you will be discarding the stems and using only the leaves; it is not calling for 1 pound of leaves. If you have the option to purchase only the leaves, you will need much less.
Sugar – 1 cup
Water – 1 cup
Glass jar or jug x 2– plastic seems to really absorb the alcohol smell so avoid if possible
Mandolin – if you have one it makes cutting the cucumber garnish easier
Storage /serving bottle for infused simple syrup – I use a sauce squirt bottle for ease of serving (think picnic ketchup and mustard bottles)
Cucumber Gin – 3 to 5 Days
This is the longest process. Starting at least 3 days before you want to serve the Lazy Gardeners, you will want to start the infusing process.
Chop the cucumbers and place them in your glass container.
Pour the gin over the cucumber and that’s it. Shake 1-2 times a day. Let it sit for at least 3 days but 5 is optimal. I usually leave it on the counter but our weather is relatively mild here, and I’ve never had a problem with this. And it’s alcohol. It does a pretty fantastic job of killing microbes all on its own. If you are going to store in the fridge during infusion, try to give yourself the 5 days to maximize infusion or at least try the rough chop method if you don’t have the full 5 days.
I have done the slices as shown in the picture above, and I have also put the cucumber in the food processor and rough chopped them. I call the rough chop method my quick infusion method since I’ve gotten a decent infusion with an almost puree cucumber in as little as 2 days.
This requires a bit more work to separate the cucumber at the end of the infusion. I use a funnel with cheesecloth to strain the bits of chopped cucumber out.
I like the slices because they’re pretty and because I keep telling myself I am going to do something with my pretty, gin soaked cucumber slices. I have yet to do anything with them save trigger my own disappointment in not doing anything with them.
There is great debate in our circle over which one gives you the most intense cucumber flavor profile. The hypothesis is that the increased surface area of the rough chop releases the cucumber liquid goodness in to the gin quicker and/or more efficiently. Perhaps I will science this someday and report back but just know you will get a workable and enjoyable infused cucumber gin no matter which method you use as long as you let it sit at least 3 full days.
I often pour mine back in to the liquor bottle for ease of use and communication for my guests. In this batch, you can see the cucumber added a pint of additional liquid to the alcohol. This was from a rough chop infusion.
If you science it (controlled infusion ratios, double-blind taste test) report back in the comments and let me know what you find.
Mint Infused Simple Syrup
The syrup can be made in any volume so long as the ratio is 1:1 Sugar and Water. I had a craft cocktail bartender tell me he makes a 2:1 mix of the Sugar:Water so there is less liquid in the syrup to dilute the drink, but I couldn’t get anything other than minty rock candy in the bottom of a squeeze bottle with some syrup floating on top when I did this, so your mileage may vary. I also did not use a thermometer to monitor to boil temperature on that 2:1 syrup mixture, so that could be a factor. I don’t care enough to figure it out at this point in my life because the 1:1 works just fine for this recipe and it is the only recipe that I make a simple syrup for, but if you like the idea of perfecting that craft cocktail secret, feel free to jump in and give it a go. Even the rock-candy-at-the-bottom-of-the-bottle syrup still tasted good in the drinks. This ingredient seems to just be there for a little hit of minty sweetness to balance the tartness in the ginger beer.
Boil the water and sugar together until sugar is dissolved.
Allow to cool to the touch. The sugar is our solvent in this infusion to extract to mint essential oil (we all remember the relationship between oil and water;the water is definitely not the solvent in this recipe), so you don’t want it to be completely cooled and set into its crystal ladder-y bonds before you begin the steeping and extraction process.
In a bowl, remove mint leaves from stems and crush to release the essential oils.
Add cooled syrup liquid to the mint leaves. Be sure the syrup is mostly cooled. If you add hot syrup to the leaves, your syrup will taste less minty and much more like cooked greens, which is essentially what it will be if the liquid is too hot.
The flash point of peppermint essential oil is 132-134°F and the flash point of spearmint essential oil is 132-135°F.
What this means is if your simple syrup temperature is over 132°F, and you pour it on the mint, it will cause the essential oil in the mint (the thing that contains the terpenes and terpenoids that comprise the smells and flavors) to evaporate off leaving behind mostly the flavors of the cooked green vegetable matter, so just make sure bring it down around 100°F and you should be good to go.
Leave your infusion to sit for at least 1 hour up to 3 hours or until cooled to room temperature.
Strain out the mint leaves and store the mint syrup in a sealed container. Like the rough chopped cucumber infusion, I use cheesecloth and a funnel for this part. Look how pretty and golden that extraction is!
I keep mine in the fridge up to 2 weeks. I use the leftovers in iced tea, coffee and other drinks.
Alternate recipe: buy some simple syrup and warm it up a little for the infusion, or the genius thing that literally never occurred to me until I started writing this section – just add some food grade mint oil to a commercial or home preparation of simple syrup if sufficient mint leaves are difficult to come by or you want to skip the steeping and infusion process.
It is really hard to screw this up into something completely unusable unless you dump the hot syrup on the mint leaves and it tastes like sweet cooked grass, and I already said don’t do that, so you won’t, so you’re going to do great Champ. Get in there and get that syrup going!
Garnish – Optional
Slice the cucumber long ways on the mandolin until you reach seeds. Flip to the other side and slice as many long thin slices of cucumber as you can without including the seeds.
Skewer on a bamboo garnish skewer (I got mine at Cash & Carry) and plop on top of the drink. That’s it! I prep about 6-8 of these and call it good for a party. Not everyone cares about garnish and even fewer care about it when it’s drink 2 or 3.
Enjoy! And seriously, if you get a chance, go to Revel. It is AHHHMAYYYZING.