Fancy one of these?
First, you'll need to pick approximately eleventy million of these: gorse flowers, plucked from one of the near countless numbers of gorse that dot the New Zealand countryside. They have the unique scent of coconut and when handled, have a keen sweet smell, not unlike freshly mown grass. You'll need quite a bit to make gorse flower cordial, which I used to make the cocktail pictured above.
First, some background. Gorse was introduced here from the UK at the time of European colonisation. A naturally hardy plant, gorse flourished and then spread like wildfire, becoming our country's single most invasive plant species, with millions spent over the years in trying to eradicate it. While still considered a blight, gorse is increasingly used to foster the regeneration of native forest, serving as cover for young plants until they become established.
Gorse bushes will flower for most of the year, but become especially prolific in spring. I see them all the time when driving along Highway here in Hawke's Bay, and this inspired me, along with an old episode of River Cottage where Hugh F-W made gorse flower wine, to try and make something with them. I thought about making the wine, but I don't have the brewing equipment... yet (material for a future post). So, I settled for a gorse cordial recipe I found at the awesome Eat Weeds site. I was hoping it would taste as good as it smelt, so maybe it would lend itself to a cocktail of some description. Time to get to work...
First, find your gorse bush. Being as prolific as they are, you shouldn't have too much difficulty finding them - try riverbanks, abandoned plots of land, or ask a farmer. Gorse bushes are smothered in wicked-looking spines, so be careful when plucking your flowers. I didn't bother, but you may want to give thought to wearing some gardening gloves; nothing too thick though, otherwise you won't feel a thing and won't be able to grasp the flowers. You'll need large handfuls worth to make around half a litre of cordial. Pop into a plastic bag as you pick.
In order to minimise the loss of scent/flavour, I pretty much made the cordial as soon as I got home.
Gorse Flower Cordial
- large handfuls of gorse flowers
- g caster sugar
- ml water
- juice of a lemon
- zest of an orange
Dissolve sugar in the water and bring to the boil; keep at a rolling boil for minutes, then remove from the heat. Add all ingredients immediately, and stir. Straight away, the first thing I noticed was a smell similar to sweet, fruity herbal tea - no trace of the distinctive coconut smell, however. Leave overnight to cool and infuse, then strain through muslin or similar. It has a bright yellow, Mountain Dew-kind of colour. Store in the fridge.
How did it taste? I took it to work to get opinions and got lots of "mangoes", "cut grass", "spring" and "herby notes". The flavour, while subtle, was quite distinctive.
I tinkered with a few cocktail recipes and came up with this (it doesn't have a name). I ruled out gin, fearing that the pronounced flavours of the botanicals would swamp the cordial, unlike vermouth which I thought would be a little gentler. I'm no expert on cocktails, by any stretch, so if you have any suggestions or would do things differently, feel free to chime in with your thoughts.
- ml vodka
- ml dry vermouth
- ml gorse flower cordial
Place ingredients into a cocktail mixer with ice, and stir. Strain into a glass over ice - serve. It has a palid, lime colour, and the flavour of the cordial lingers for quite a while. Alternatively, have with a big splash of soda water and ice. Either way, it's a very pleasant tipple :)