As the author of the recently launched The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook, I’m frequently asked: What was the hardest part of writing the book? The answer: Aside from trying to track down hundreds of farmers and chefs—two notoriously difficult-to-reach groups—it was deciding just which restaurants and farms would make it into the book.
The best way to shine a spotlight on some of the new discoveries that didn’t make it into the book on time is by sharing them online. So, below, I introduce you to Back 40 Kitchen, one of my new favorite “farm-y” haunts, tucked away at 110 Greenwich Avenue. It’s an intimate eatery with a rustic, weathered-barn ambience and a delicious local, seasonal organic menu that relies heavily on the bounty from area farms (including Back 40 Farm, the owners’ own organic farm in Washington, Connecticut) and area artisanal producers of honeys, cheeses and specialty foods.
Before a memorable dinner, plan on making an extended pit stop at the bar, where Jennifer DeMarsico, house manager, and her husband, George, chef, have created a slew of killer craft cocktails to keep the summer vibe going. Here, Jennifer shares three recent creations, all made with organic ingredients. A note: Many of these original cocktails require infusions, steeping and advance prep. If you’re crafty and have time to make your own at home, the recipes are below. If you’re like us, though, you’ll sidle up to the bar at Back 40 and put yourself in the bartender’s capable hands! Get there: 107 Greenwich Avenue (parking and entrance in rear), 203-992-1800; back40kitchen.com.
- “Killer Bees Knees” 1.5 oz. of Barr Hill Gin, .75 oz. fresh lemon juice and .75 oz. jalapeño-infused honey (to make honey: combine 14 oz. honey and 7 oz. water in a pan and simmer; remove from the stove and throw in two chopped jalapeños; let steep off of the heat for 10 minutes, strain and reserve in a squeeze bottle for easy use). Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, shake and strain into a glass with three 1-inch ice cubes. Garnish with edible viola flowers. Jennifer notes: “The jalapeño adds just the right amount of heat on the finish to keep you coming back for more.”
- “Rhum Punch” 1.5 oz. St. George’s Agricole Rhum, .75 oz. Thatcher’s Blood Orange Liqueur, .75 oz. fresh lemon juice, .75 oz. fresh lime juice and .75 oz. house-made cherry syrup (to make syrup: bring equal parts tart cherry juice and cane sugar to a simmer in a small pan and reduce by half). Mix all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, shake and strain into a glass with one 2-inch ice cube. Garnish with lime wheel and homemade maraschino cherries (to make, steep fresh red cherries, pitted and cut in half with the cherry syrup above; store in Mason jars with the syrup and let sit for 2 weeks to “marinate”). Jennifer notes: I put a “floater” of Blackwell Black Gold dark rum right on top of the finished drink—say about .25 oz. it adds a hint of cocoa or black coffee flavor that balances out all of the citrus. Jennifer says: “Our house-made cherries make all the difference. Real fruit flavors bring this drink to life.”
- “Whiskey Lullaby” 1.5 oz. Koval Four Grain Whiskey, .75 oz. fresh orange juice, 5 oz. house-made lavender syrup (to make syrup: bring 3 cups water, 2 cups cane sugar and 3 tablespoons of dried lavender to a simmer in small pan. Take off heat and let steep for 1 hour and sit in a Mason jar for 1 week, strain and keep in squeeze bottle) and 1 teaspoon of house-made chamomile tincture (to make: fill half of a one-quart mason jar with dried chamomile flowers, then fill the jar to the top with vodka, and put the top on the jar and let sit for a month. After one month, strain into a squeeze bottle). Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake and strain into a coupe glass, no ice. Garnish with a floating fresh chamomile flower. Jennifer says: “As if drinking whiskey wasn’t relaxing enough, the chamomile and lavender flavors are the perfect start to a stress-free weekend.”