Along the Grapevine


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Whisky Sumac Hot Toddy

It is still winter here in SE Ontario, not much happening on the foraging front – the landscape looks like a white desert – except for the odd oasis of red staghorn sumac.

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I can’t imagine either the winter or the sumac will be around much longer, but with nothing else around I ventured across snow dunes in search of food. The berries aren’t quite as red as they were in the summer, but they are still tasty and easy to harvest. Once the rain starts, they will lose much of their flavour, and I expect finally disappear to make room for new growth. At least, I hope so.

I made another batch of dried sumac and a few cups of sumac juice – which incidentally makes a lovely hot tea on these cold afternoons, and now that I think of them as a desert fruit, the tea tastes very much like red date tea. But as a recipe for Angie’s Fiesta Friday, I wanted to turn it into a festive drink – and I had to make it hot to counter the bitter cold we are still experiencing.

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The recipe is very simple, but as tasty as any whisky cocktail I have had in a bar – just a lot less expensive. I used Canadian rye, but whatever you use, I would not mix a complex and highly flavoured whiskey. I decided on this recipe because, not only is it cold, but many people are fighting off flus and colds, and what better remedy than a hot toddy with honey and ginger!

Whisky Sumac Hot Toddy

For the syrup:

1 1/2 cup sumac juice

1 inch of fresh ginger, sliced

1 heaping Tbsp honey

Mash the ginger with a pestle in the pot. Add the sumac juice and heat. Add the honey and simmer for about five minutes. If you like it sweeter, add more honey.

For the toddy

1/2 cup sumac syrup

1 1/2 ounces whisky

1/4 tsp angostura bitters

Pour the whisky into a glass or mug. Strain the hot sumac syrup into it and add the angostura bitters. Stir and serve.

I served this with freshly popped popcorn, flavoured with oil, salt and sumac powder. The syrup is also very good on its own if you are not up for the whisky hot toddy.

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