Wild Plum Simple Syrup

Cocktail anyone? Specifically a Wild Plum Whiskey Sour? If you answered yes (and of course you did!) then you’ll absolutely want to make this Wild Plum Simple Syrup. For those of you following the #wildplumchronicles on my Instagram, you know I’ve been knee deep (well, to the ankles at least) in wild plums. Both trees on the property decided in unison to drop their fruit on my patio, backyard, garden, walkways….you name it….it’s everywhere. At night, I hear the plums thumping down onto the roof, rolling down, and then bouncing off the barbeque below. But hey, when these little guys are this sweet and juicy, that’s music to my ears.

 The trees have yielded so much fruit, it’s incredible. The picture above is only a fraction of what I’ve harvested so far. I’ve given a bunch away already to the neighbors and friends, along with making Wild Plum Jam too. I swear they multiply overnight. I can’t seem to wrangle them in fast enough! These wild plums with their imperfect skins and brilliant hues of purple and crimson are packed with flavor. Small but mighty as they say! So for this recipe, don’t even bother trying to pit them. The skins and pits will come away from the fruit during cooking. I like the tart flavor of plum,  so I hold back on some of the sugar, especially when the fruit is so ripe like it is now. These nuggets will give off quite a bit of liquid too, so use less water than you normally would for a simple syrup. And if your farmer’s market or specialty grocery doesn’t have wild plums, no worries. Just use any good eating plum like a Japanese, Santa Rosa, or Black Plum. Whatever you can get your hands on.

wild plum simple syrup | whiskandmuddler.comWild Plum Simple Syrup
yields 12 ounces | Wild Plum Simple Syrup PDF

2/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups wild plums (measured in a liquid measuring cup)

Add sugar and water to medium size sauce pan. Warm over medium heat, just until the sugar has dissolved. Add the whole plums and simmer on low-medium heat uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Plums tend to be foamy when cooking, so stir frequently. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 20-30 minutes to fully infuse the syrup.

Strain pulp and liquid through a fine mesh strainer or china cap into a large bowl. Then strain that liquid again through a cheesecloth or paper towel over a smaller bowl. This will ensure the final syrup is as clear as possible and free from pulp. Allow to cool, then pour into an airtight bottle or jar. This syrup is best when used within 3-4 weeks from making it, but it can store up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator if need be.

Mix into cocktails, spoon over ice cream or pound cake, macerate fruit in it, or add a few drops to plain bubble water for refreshing sip.

wild plum whiskey sour | whiskandmuddler.comWild Plum Whiskey Sour
yield one 5-ounce serving | Wild Plum Simple Syrup PDF

3-4 wild plums  + 1 for garnish
2 parts whiskey (I used a Rye Whiskey)
1 part Wild Plum Simple Syrup
1 lime, juiced
lime flavored sparkling water for topping

In a cocktail shaker, place wild plums in whole and muddle to release their juice. Add in ice, whiskey, Wild Plum Simple Syrup and lime juice. Shake well. Pour into a rocks glass over ice. Top off with lime sparkling water (I like LaCroix) and a plum garnish. Note: you can use regular plums in this drink. Since they are bigger, you’ll only need one or two for muddling.

simple syrup collection | whiskandmuddler.com

my current simple syrup stash: (clockwise) wild plum, thyme, mint, rhubarb, fennel

I’m a bit simple-syrup-obsessed at the moment. You’ll find all of these in my fridge, awaiting their turn to star in my next cocktail creation! The fun part of simple syrups is you can take unusual ingredients and create drink mixers in a jiffy. The Fennel syrup is so tasty in a Bloody Mary and the Thyme syrup is used often (okay, A LOT ) right now with my new favorite Meyer Lemon & Thyme Whiskey Sour. I use the Mint syrup in my smoothies in the morning, and also a drop in an herbal tea for just a hit of minty sweetness. There are so many ways to use a simple syrup—let your mind and taste buds wander and you’ll be making syrups of all kinds before you know it.


Spirit Works At The Barlow


Last weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting a micro-distillery in the newer artisan retail community called The Barlow. Here resides Spirit Works Distillery which specializes in hand-crafted Vodka, Gin, Sloe Gin and in the not-to-distant future, they’ll be releasing small-batch Rye Whiskey as well. What a treat it was to head out to the bucolic town of Sebastopol, CA to see first-hand how specialty spirits are produced.

As you may have seen from a couple of previous posts (Tonic Water: The Unsung Hero, Dirty Gin & Tonic Shortbread), that I’m a Gin-girl through and through. So the thought of being able to taste, touch, see, and smell where and how one of my most favorite elixirs was produced, had me giddy from the get-go. My poor friend who I dragged with me was clearly not as excited as I was about the fact we were soon to be immersed in a world of juniper (Gin’s not her favourite). But as soon as I mentioned there was going to be Vodka…well, that apparently was the magic word. Her ears perked up and with spirit-renewed (pun absolutely intended) off we went!

SpiritWorks_Still3   SpiritWorks_Still1
Copper Still imported from Germany

We arrived into a dimly lit, cozy tasting lounge at the front of the production facility and were warmly greeted by our hostess and tour guide, Lauren. She gave us an expertly narrated and in-depth tour of how each process of the distilling was done. Having been in the wine industry for over 15 years, I’m all too familiar with tanks, fermenters, oak barrels and alike but I must say, this small but mighty operation has it all dialed in. From their imported German copper stills, to their own grain mill, to their proprietary blend of botanicals (and it’s not the usual stuff, trust me) to the specific Missouri-oak barrels they commission for their emerging whiskey program (and some experimental barrel-aged Gin projects too – count me in!), Spirit Works is truly a labour of love for the owners & distillers Timo and Ashby Marshall. 

Ashby and Timo Marshall (and Bandit)

We were so fortunate to have Timo join our tour as we got to the aging room. As we were oohing and awing over the barrels, he let us in on a little secret behind a neat experiment going on with musical vibrations as it relates to the molecular development of the liquid (spirit). Don’t worry, this will be a Chemistry 101-type explanation otherwise I wouldn’t be able to follow it myself. But I must say,  it was fascinating to hear how they are attempting to create differences in finished flavor profiles of identical barrel lots just from the genre of music that’s “played” to them. So picture this: a bunch of barrels stacked on top of each other. One barrel has a set of headphones stretched over it with an ipod dangling playing the blue grass beats of The Devil Makes Three, another is being serenaded by the classical score of The Nutcracker- and yet a third barrel is grooving to the tunes of  Santigold. The method to the madness is that from the subtle vibrations generated by the frequencies of the musical style, it causes minut shifts in the interior liquid, thereby integrating a higher proportion of the liquid to the oak. Well, that quickly shifted to AP-level speak, sorry! But you get the idea right? The more movement in the barrel, the more the spirit comes in contact with the wood and then actually changes the fundamental taste when it ultimately hits the glass in your Manhattan. Very cool!

Ok, now for the drinking part (my personal favorite). We finished the tour back in the tasting room and were treated to sips of each spirit. We started with the Vodka, then Gin and finally the Sloe Gin:

spirit works family shot-428x256



Here are my tasting notes:

Vodka: smooth, clean, hints of citrus. Full, round mid palate with a silky finish. I must confess– I’m not usually a Vodka drinker because frankly, I like to taste my spirits in a drink. With most Vodka brands, I have a tough time discerning its contribution in flavor to the finished cocktail. But this one expertly walks the fine line of a discreet “hello” when arriving to the party without becoming obnoxious  or overbearing.

Gin: floral and herbaceous on the nose with definite warm notes from the cardamom and coriander –two of several components in their secret blend. Mid- palate was complex with traditional juniper flavors but a nice addition of citrus peeks through to complement the clean finish. This is a Gin I would very much enjoy “neat” so as to savor its layered nuances.

Sloe Gin: one of the best I’ve tasted. This spirit is so misunderstood and woefully under-used. If it’s done right, Sloe Gin is a wonderful digestif solo, but also makes an excellent based for many cocktails of bygone days. This bottling is elegant, understated yet explodes on the palate with plum, red raspberry and citrus. Complexity in flavor beckons one to savor each sip and the lingering finish leaves you wanting more.

As part of the tour we received a little gifty at the end. I chose the mini cocktail book (of course) and to my utter delight, it contained a Gin Flavor Wheel. This folks is exactly why I love the world of food and drinks as I had no idea such a thing even existed. There ya go, I learn something everyday. DSC_0115- gin wheel
So this weekend I will be geeking-out by opening all my Gins in the house and re-tasting with the Gin Wheel in hand. Sounds crazy doesn’t it, but I can think of a lot worse things than spending a night-in drinking my favorite spirit. Not my idea of a bad time at all.

I should mention I didn’t take pictures whilst there,  so all the photos are courtesy Spirit Works (thank you!). Theirs are much better than mine would have been anyway!

Tours & Tastings Fri-Sun at 4pm
spiritworksdistillery.com | 707.634.4793