by Steve Schul
One late spring, Paul and I were making new cocktails with some moonshine, Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine to be precise. We were making cocktails to pair with a three-course lunch at Bourbon House in New Orleans, and Piedmont Distillers asked us to use their moonshine in all the recipes. Excited by the notion of summer vegetables soon to grace our farmers markets, I decided to explore my savory side. When I taste this moonshine neat, there is a little burn on my tongue, and a little down my throat. It’s crystal clear, like vodka, and like vodka, it needs a little loving from the garden. I opt for tomatoes because Bloody Marys come to mind. But instead of the traditional Bloody Mary, I want it to be light and fresh, like a summertime breeze that releases the essence of tomatoes as they ripen on the vine. The only thing that tastes like that description is tomato water. Tomato water is made by mashing up some gorgeous heirlooms or vine-ripened beauties and straining the pulp through some cheesecloth. After 10 hours of a drip drip drip into a collecting bowl, the pure essence of tomato is what awaits.
You could almost drink this tomato water naked and unadulterated, and we have on occasions when we’ve made a big batch and had some extra to sip. But I wanted to add some traditional flavors of a Bloody Mary into the water, so in went a few drops of fiery Tabasco and savory Worcestershire, a shake or two of celery salt, and for added depth, a drop of liquid smoke. Add one little basil leaf atop a few ice cubes and I see Adam in the Garden of Eden, waiting for his mate to make him his cocktail.
Perfect as a brunch alternative to a Bloody Mary, the Adam will tempt you with its fresh tomato taste and off-the-vine aroma.
3 ounces tomato water*
1 ounce Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine
1/4 ounce lemon juice
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco
1 drop liquid smoke
2 dashes celery salt
basil leaf, as garnish
In a mixing glass halfway filled with ice, add all the ingredients. Stir gently until ingredients are cold. Strain into wine glass halfway filled with fresh ice. Add basil leaf garnish.
* Tomato Water:
9 medium vine-ripened or summer-fresh tomatoes
12 basil leaves
1 beet slice (optional, for color)
In a blender or food processor, purée tomatoes, basil, and salt. Line a glass or ceramic bowl with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Pour purée into bowl. Gather ends of cheesecloth and tie tightly with enough string to create a pouch. Hang above bowl and allow to drip. Add beet slice to bowl. Allow purée to drip into bowl for 8–12 hours. (At some point, you may have to squeeze to release juices if not producing enough liquid.) Remove beet slice. Makes enough tomato water for about 6 drinks.
Patience is your best friend when it comes to making tomato water. But if you notice that the tomato water stops dripping from the pouch hanging over the bowl, it’s time to get your hands a little dirty. Wash them first, and then gently squeeze the pouch. This will redistribute the mash and allow the water that’s remaining to drip through.