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A bright and herbaceous syrup with a hint of cardamom and a vivid non-alcoholic cocktail aptly dubbed the Painted Lady to refresh yourself in a well balanced way.
For those just joining us in this series, you can find the continued saga of my December syrup and liqueur making in Part 1 and Part 2. Welcome to Part 3: Mandarin Thyme Syrup. Another non-alcoholic entry that works brilliantly mixed with some soda water (perhaps add a squeeze of fresh lime or a thyme sprig garnish?) or in a cocktail.
To include the non-alcohol imbibers, I’ve got a “mocktail” recipe to go with this refreshing syrup. Personally, I hate that term. To me it has the connotation that these drinks are somehow less, or worse, are simply the same drink with the alcohol left out. I prefer to approach them as a class of cocktail in their own right, simply one with <1% ABV. When I was bartending, I really enjoyed making non-alcoholic drinks for patrons. It pushes you to really think about alternatives to get both volume and flavor while balancing sweet and acid.
To that end I find bitters are incredibly versatile. You can add them to recipes as you would extracts (the old-fashioned caramels), make cocktails, and flavor non-alcoholic drinks. The only thing to bear in mind is that many bitters do have alcohol in them – you just use them in such low amounts that they are not counted as an alcoholic product. One dash is about 1/16th of a tsp. But some people do have allergic reactions to ethanol, so it’s worth knowing.
Other useful ingredients for crafting non-alcoholic cocktails: syrups (duh), muddled fruit, and tea. If you are fond of bitter/herbal drinks, try working with tonic water as a lengthener.
In this drink I wanted to highlight the mandarin flavor, but not lose the herbaceous qualities of the thyme. A bit of lime juice brightened everything up and mellowed some of the sweet from the syrup. To add the final kick, just a dash of Peychaud’s bitters added a bit of spice and bitter to round out the drink. Unfortunately Peychaud’s is such an intense red that it covered up the beautiful, luminescent orange of the syrup, but flavor is always going to be more important to me. You’ll have to settle for a look at the syrup in its unadulterated state. The name is a riff on the classic Pink Lady cocktail though it has no ingredients in common – but the colours of both drinks are vibrant.