June 2011

Nastoyka

GREG
EASTER

BRIAN LEATART

We call Easter our man in Saint Petersburg. The well-traveled author of Cocktails of the South Pacific and Beyond: Advanced Mixology—and California native—is executive chef at the northern Russia city’s Jagger, a two-floor club featuring a microbrewery and gourmet pub food. The owners are currently scouting spots for a Los Angeles branch.

Cocktails in Russia are still something of a novelty, regarded mostly as the tipples of young women. Consequently, Russian men approach mixed drinks with trepidation. A man caught sipping anything with Lilliputian umbrellas or brightly colored fruit risks social suicide. Even a libation served in a highball glass sans garnish mustn’t use grenadine, as that creates the most dreaded shade: pink.

The garnish on one Russian drink, the Timber Cove—a cinnamon stick impaling a slice of mango—actually comes off as masculine. Plus, the taste of the cinnamon and mango bring out the flavor of the main hearty ingredient, kumquat nastoyka.

A word about nastoyka: It’s a traditional Russian liquor often made by infusing vodka with any of an array of flavors rarely seen outside of eastern Europe—think buckthorn, lingonberry or mountain ash berry. Virtually none of the hundreds of nastoykas are exported.

The main differences between nastoyka and other infused vodkas are its rapid processing (just 24 to 48 hours) and the large quantities of flavorings used to compensate for that short time. And while most commercially prepared nastoykas are based on vodka, some also contain some cognac. The unique essences of nastoyka are key to the recipes below.

THE TIMBER COVE

This is the cocktail of the month at the Jagger Club.

• 2 ½ ounces kumquat nastoyka
• ⅓ ounce lemon juice
• Mango slice for garnish

Using a cinnamon stick, stir all ingredients in a chilled martini glass. Pierce mango slice with the cinnamon stick and rest atop glass.

Kumquat Nastoyka

• 1 pint vodka
• 5 ½ ounces kumquats, each sliced into four pieces
• ⅓ cup and 1 tablespoon sugar

Combine all and let stand 24 hours, shaking regularly to ensure sugar is dissolved. Put through a fine-mesh sieve, squeezing out the kumquats, then discard solids. Refrigerate in stoppered bottle.

REPOSE

My cocktail of the year—the combination of flavors is both phenomenal and beguiling.

• 1 ounce lingonberry nastoyka
• 1 ounce vodka
• 1 ounce Bacardi Black rum
• 2 tablespoons gin
• ½ ounce triple sec
• ¼ ounce Martini & Rossi “Rosso” sweet vermouth
• 1 tablespoon apricot jam
• 1 teaspoon simple syrup
• 3-inch piece of grapefruit zest (no pith)
• Half lime for juicing

Gently stir all ingredients except lime 50 times with a spoon, then add ice and shake. Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour into highball glass with three ice cubes, retaining the zest. Squeeze in lime juice, then toss in peel and zest.

Lingonberry Nastoyka with Frozen Berries

If not purchased frozen, pre-freeze fresh lingonberries for two days. Do not use a blender to crush the fruit.

• 17 ounces vodka
• 7 ounces frozen lingonberries
• ⅓ cup sugar
• 1 ounce cognac

Alternate: Lingonberry Nastoyka with Liqueur

• 2 ½ ounces Lapponia lingonberry liqueur
• 2 ½ ounces vodka
• 1 teaspoon Armagnac or Cognac

Combine ingredients in a wide-mouth glass jar with a secure lid. Allow to stand 18–24 hours, shaking regularly to ensure sugar is dissolved. Put through sieve, being careful not to crush berries, if using them.