A Cooking with Wine Blog original cocktail made with Empress 1908 Ginjump to recipe
We love gin. Period. And one unique brand has a special place in our hearts and is gaining ground daily. We first found Empress 1908 in Chicago, Illinois on Memorial Day weekend just a few years ago. Since then, we’ve been massive fans of this Canadian hand-crafted spirit from Victoria Distillers in BC. It’s unique in its color as well as its color-changing properties (thanks to one of the eight botanicals – butterfly pea blossoms), so we’ve used it in a number of cocktails and other creations, including naturally dyed sourdough bread!
This amazing gin poured over our filtered water clear ice (which we discovered is a Ph over 8) turns a stunning sky blue and gently reveals the characteristics of ginger, coriander and rose. With a bit of lemon juice or anything acidic, such as tonic water, it turns back through the indigo spectrum and accelerates through purples to a purple-pink and beyond to a soft pink color. Truly a striking visual to accompany a stunning gin. This is the foundation of our journey to create a distinctive cocktail with a quality gin!
About the cocktail
So, the second part to this is a memory of an old drink called a Bridesmaid. Old in the sense that it’s been over a decade since I recall a bartender telling me about it. That was the first and only time I’ve heard of the drink in a restaurant, bar or pub setting (although, admittedly I never sought it out), but I remember that he was passionate about it, made me one, and I liked it! It was “very good.” I wouldn’t describe it as memorable until now, and that’s only because I remembered it for some reason! When I looked at Empress 1908 botanical list recently my memory dislodged this nugget of a cocktail that was forgotten by us and probably by others. How can we elevate a forgotten cocktail that never made it out of the minor leagues? Well, knowing that ginger was one of the eight botanicals in this indigo-hued gin, and the other ingredients were classic material, the excursion began!
The inspiration behind The Empress Maid of Honor
Looking for the Bridesmaid inspiration, all I could really find was a short description and recipe by Stuart Walton in The Ultimate Book of Cocktails – 2009. I remembered the Bridesmaid was stirred, served on the rocks and, along with gin, included ginger ale, lemon juice and bitters, but now I had a base recipe. According to Mr. Walton, it has gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and ginger ale. Now, I wouldn’t call this a “classic cocktail,” in the sense that most people have never heard of it, but certainly a good enough baseline to work from – and maybe create a new classic!
Our twist on the Bridesmaid cocktail: Promotion to Maid of Honor
Our twist on the Bridesmaid cocktail uses our preferred ratios, ginger bitters and pink peppercorn infused simple syrup. And, of course, the most important part for taste and presentation – Empress 1908 gin. And this bridesmaid got a promotion to Maid of Honor and will never go forgotten ever again!
This 5-ingredient cocktail is pretty basic, but we were determined to find a great combination of flavors that would work perfectly with Empress 1908. It’s a light and refreshing drink that compliments a great botanical gin and lets it shine through. So, through experimentation, and focusing on the gin, I think we took this to a beautiful and distinct level – the Bridesmaid is now the Empress Maid of Honor!
What is in The Empress Maid of Honor?
Obviously, the main spirit, in this case Empress 1908, should be the star of the show. And it certainly is in this concoction. But a great supporting cast makes this an elevated rocks drink. A high-quality ginger ale is highly recommended (we prefer Fever Tree). Ginger bitters should be readily available at liquor stores or online, but if for some reason they can’t be found, I would suggest, as a substitute, grapefruit or any citrus bitter. Grapefruit bitters will coincide with the grapefruit peel aromatic used in Empress 1908 but citrus bitters work well also. We use pink peppercorns in our simple syrup to accent the juniper and cinnamon bark botanicals in Empress 1908, but also to compliment the faint earthiness in this unique gin. After trying several infused syrups, pink peppercorns compliment the gingers to make the best bridge between the sweetness of the syrup, sourness of the lemon and spiciness of the gin.
Our simple syrup is simple to make and uses just a bit more sugar than the usual 1:1 ratio and is homemade. It can easily be replicated (read below).
How to make the Pink Peppercorn Simple Syrup
Bring to a simmer 1.25 parts sugar to 1 part water to dissolve with ¼ part pink peppercorns. Cool and strain.
Empress Maid of Honor Recipe
What you will needjump to recipe
- 2.5 oz Empress 1908 gin
- 2.5 oz ginger ale
- ¾ oz pink peppercorn simple syrup
- 1 oz filtered lemon juice
- 2 dashes ginger bitters
- Edible flowers/ lemon wheel (optional
- Mixing glass
- Bar spoon
- Chilled serving glass
For this drink, it is best served over ice, but the glass that it is served in is not necessarily important, so choose your favorite. We prefer large martini glasses or lowball glasses.
The color-changing properties of the Empress Gin are always a party pleaser! So, we recommend adding the ingredients one at a time to see how the color changes with each addition.
In a mixing glass, add 2.5 oz of Empress 1908.
Add ginger ale and mix with your spoon. At this point you should see the color change from indigo blue to a deep purple/pink.
Next, add 3/4 oz pink peppercorn simple syrup and 1 oz of strained lemon juice and mix to see the color change to a lighter and brighter pink with the acidity of the lemon juice. Add ice to the mixing glass.
Finally add a few dashes of ginger bitters. Stir your drink while touching the outside of the glass until you feel that it has chilled. This shouldn’t take more than 20-30 seconds of stirring to achieve the desired temp.
Pour over ice into chilled glass.
If desired, spritz with lemon peel or garnish with a thin lemon wheel or small edible flower and enjoy!
If you like this cocktail, please leave us a comment and let us know!