Today marks the one-year anniversary of the last time I got on an airplane.
For the last decade, there have only been 3 months (total!) where I haven’t been on an airplane.
That’s a lot of travel.
So to now be 12 months in without flying off on some exotic adventure – or even mundane work trip – is starting to take its toll.
Exactly 364 days ago, I was in Vail, Colorado on an annual ski trip.
My dad has spent the last 12 years working in production for the Burton US Open – one of the biggest snowboarding competitions in the world.
So me being the freeloading son I am, I’ve crashed the party for the last 6 years in a row. I crash in his beautiful hotel room at Manor Vail, and take advantage of his free lift tickets (I mean, free skiing and a room in Vail?? How can you turn that down.)
Sunday was always the last day of the trip, and it was the only day where he wasn’t working.
So we would always hang out, ski a little, and just enjoy our time in one of my favorite places in the world.
But, for dinner we always did the same thing: Matsuhisa.
Matsuhisa Vail: One of the Best Restaurants I’ve Been To
Matsuhisa is chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Vail restaurant and one of the best spots in town.
The first time we went 4 years ago, we got a reservation and they tried to sit us at the worst table in the place. The bar was wide open, and had an epic view of the mountain – so we made the switch.
Now every year, we show up at 5, grab a seat at the bar and reflect on an epic week, and the fact that we’ve been so fortunate to take this trip together for so many years.
The Gardener from Matsuhisa Vail
This past year is the first time in 8 years I haven’t visited Vail, either on that trip or separately.
Throw not just missing out on the sentimental trip, but missing out on any trip, and being relatively housebound due to COVID, and I was pretty bummed out this week.
So I began thinking about how I could reclaim at least a little slice of those memories and that experience.
And it hit me: The Gardener.
We have a lot of traditions on that Vail trip, but one was always ordering a Gardener cocktail while at the restaurant.
I’ve traveled all over the world visiting bars, and I have yet to really come across a drink like this.
It’s sweet, earthy, spicy, and absolutely delicious. You get your choice of ordering it with gin or tequila (or mezcal if you’re really in the know), and regardless of which way you prefer it? It’s amazing.
There’s just one problem. Despite ordering every year, I had no idea how to make it.
I knew it had cilantro and some kind of pepper. That’s about as far as I got.
Being the resourceful human I am, I turned to Google “Gardener cocktail Matsuhisa” and fortunately this post from Mezcal PhD popped up.
So after a quick trip to the local co-op for some fresh product? I was in business.
This is the rare cocktail that can please just about anyone. Seriously, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love it in one of it’s three incarnations (gin, tequila, or mezcal).
It hits all the right notes for a unique drink, and I can already tell this will be a staple at my house this summer.
And while it’s not the absolute fastest cocktail to make, it’s certainly not difficult, provided you have a halfway decent blender.
How to Make Matsuhisa’s Gardener Cocktail
I halved the recipe that I found online, because well, I simply didn’t need that much syrup.
To make this drink you first create a kind of herbal, earthy simple syrup. Here’s what you need for about 12oz worth:
- 30 grams of cilantro tops
- 13 grams of fresh peeled ginger
- 6 grams of de-seeded serrano pepper
- 12 oz cold simple syrup (if it’s not cold, it can discolor the syrup)
Combine all of this in a blender, and blend until a nice puree.
From there, strain through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois and put into the bottle.
And once you’ve done that? The cocktail is super easy:
- 1 oz Gardener Puree
- 1oz Lime Juice
- 1oz Spirit of Your Choice (Gin, Tequila, Mezcal)
- Combine in a shaker and away you go!
Why I Love Cocktails So Much
I had my doubts that this would truly be the drink I remembered – but lo and behold: it was perfect.
One of my favorite things about cocktails is how flavors can transport you back to another place.
Whether it’s drinking Islay Scotch and remembering our road trip across the island, or making an Atlas Martini and feeling like part of the jet-set elite in Singapore – a well-executed cocktail can transport you.
And that’s exactly what the Gardener did for me.
It took me back to those nights in Vail.
For 20 minutes it allowed me to reminisce about times past and times to come.
And going through the process added one more killer cocktail to my repertoire.
So while the Gardener may not elicit the same memories for you that it did for me, if you start making this wonderful cocktail at home, it will most certainly help you create some new ones.
Use the Puree within 3 days in the refrigerator, and then freeze after that.
Gardener Cocktail from Matsuhisa
- 30 Grams Cilantro Tops
- 13 Grams Fresh Peeled Ginger
- 6 Grams Serrano Pepper
- 12 oz Cold Simple Syrup Must be chilled
- 1 oz Lime Juice
- 2 oz Spirit of Your Choice
- Combine Cilantro, Ginger, Pepper, and Simple Syrup and Blend until a puree
- Strain syrup through chinois or strainer into bottle. This should give you about 12oz of the Gardener Syrup.
- Combine lime juice, 1oz of syrup, and 2oz of spirit to shaker
- Shake for 30 seconds
- Strain into coupe or martini glass