A while back I had this ambition to tinker with herbs and create a liqueur which would be called something like “Sled’s Yard” or “Creme de Jardin Mechant.” I have lemon balm, anise hyssop and various mints out there and am willing to make a mess in the kitchen, so it seemed like a starter.
I got me a bottle of Christian Brothers brandy — as cheap as you can get without descending into the caustic, and more grapey than woody (I usually like my brandy woody), which seemed apter for a liqueur. A brief sieve of the Internet reaped some recipes which boiled down to steeping your herbs in your distilled spirits for a matter of weeks, adding sugar (I opted for honey) before or after straining and continuing to mellow for some weeks more.
I got up early one dewy morning and clipped and stripped stalk after stalk of herbs — the anise hyssop is thigh high, so it didn’t take too many. I used the flowers too; they smell like Pernod already.
Leaves and flower fragments were all over the kitchen floor. The cats went crazy. It took two pint jars to cram all the herbs in. I covered the botanical chaos with brandy, sealed them, fridged them (cold extraction of oils is best, you hear) and forgot them for a month, then got out a strainer, a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and a pair of barbecue tongs, and performed a process that looked like a cross between a mad scientist scene from a silent movie and a kitchen table abortion. Gloppy, pungent bits of moist herb were everywhere. The cats didn’t like that as much. Cats hate volatile aromas.
I blended in honey, more or less by guess, and on a last inspiration dumped in a tablespoon of black peppercorns. It sat in the fridge some more.
Last night we got it out with some pistachio Mondicana chocolate. I stuck my nose in the liqueur balloon, tasted, and felt waves of reminiscence wash over me. Though I had never had a liquor made with any of the ingredients before, it was hauntingly familiar — heimlich, as Freud would have said pointedly.
I said so as I handed the engineer his glass. He agreed.
I closed my eyes and hit the memory jackpot.
“We have Creme de Root Beer,” I said.
We’ll see where this experiment goes. The Benedictine friars can rest easy, for now.