Hey y’all. So this week was supposed to bring you another installment of All the Fixin’s, the series where we cook our way through our respective Southern heritages. But as you’ll know if you follow this blog, or our social media, or the world in general, this past weekend included that most hallowed of horsey days — the Derby — and we celebrated in a matter befitting the occasion. We did indeed cook things (many of them, in fact), but they were Bluegrass classics that make up the staples of each of our Derby parties: pie (in miniature, bite-sized form), bourbon ball cupcakes, benedictine, artichoke dip. And in the tornado of activity that was preparing for, throwing, and cleaning up after our annual Brooklyn celebration, we did not, alas, have time to venture into something new from one of our respective cookbooks.
Not to fret, All the Fixin’s will be back next month. But today, in its stead, we’re bringing you the one new thing we did try for this year’s party: a cocktail. Now we all know the correct drink to imbibe on the first Saturday in May is, of course, a mint julep. But despite our better judgement, we are friends with some people who do not partake of the browner liquors. So we decided to indulge them with an alternative option. Call us soft if you will: We prefer to celebrate our tolerance and generosity. Also Zelda will seize any opportunity to try out a new big-batch cocktail (punch bowls for one on a Wednesday afternoon seeming more sad than celebratory, she has to wait for parties to pull out all the stops).
We wanted something light and festive, full of bubbles and springtime flavors. And after some thorough Googling, Zelda settled on this Southern Living classic-with-a-twist: blueberry-lavender champagne punch. Champagne punches are a party staple: easy to throw together, pleasing to a crowd, with all the pop and fizz you want in a celebratory glass. This one punches up the traditional simple syrup with fresh blueberries and dried lavender, infusing the drink with sweet floral notes and a lovely purple tint to boot. We can’t honestly say we partook much ourselves, aside from taste testing to make sure the proportions are right — we are julep gals, through and through — but our guests swore it was positively divine, and the empty bowl at evening’s end backed their claims up. Mint and lavender alike, we all raised a glass (or several) and sang one song for our old Kentucky home — far, far away.
1 cup mashed fresh blueberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
3 bottles (750 mL) champagne (prosecco will also do the trick)
3 cups gin
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons’ worth)
To make the simple syrup, stir together the mashed blueberries, sugar, water, and lavender in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour through a mesh sieve and strain out the solid bits, then set aside to cool completely (at least 45 minutes, but we recommend making it the evening before your gathering and letting it sit in the fridge overnight).
In a punch bowl or pitcher, combine the champagne, gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. The proportions listed here are for a big batch, using all of the simple, but if you’re entertaining a smaller number of guests, use 1 cup gin, 1/3 cup simple syrup, and 1/4 cup lemon juice for every bottle of champagne.
Garnish with lemon slices, frozen blueberries, and/or lavender sprigs. Enjoy!