There are few greater rewards in this whole drinking-cocktails gig than a drink that has an interesting story behind it.
Whether it's a family nickname, a twist on a classic inspired by events or what have you, a cocktail with a purpose brings on a whole new life of its own when there's a tale behind the taste. Lo and behold, I found myself at Canton's Shiso Tavern with a gin-and-tonic creation I helped dub the Thai Tonic (not to be confused with the doomed liner from the early 20th century with a similar name).
Bar manager Dana Morris previously had no name for the gin infusion, which is made with house gin (rail or better) and soaked with a curious mix of ingredients; cucumbers, red onions, lemons, pickle juice and, most importantly, lemongrass. Thai food — heavy on the lemongrass, right? Boom, Thai Gin and Tonic, aka Thai Tonic.
Morris makes gallon jugs at a time and claims that customers began asking for jugs of their own after enjoying the infusion many times over. Which is great, but unfortunately with the whole "bootlegging" thing being illegal Shiso patrons may have to simply enjoy the concoction on premises.
The Thai Tonic is quite refreshing, with an omnipresent cucumber flavor mixing well with lemon and onion flavors. The welcome light flavor would more than likely complement any raw fish-and-rice dish with almost salad-like qualities. One might even say summer salad-like qualities.
Why? Well curiously enough, the inspiration behind Morris' concoction is just that. "My mother used to make a summer salad with those ingredients, and I really liked it so I decided to make a drink out of it," she said. "She was really happy when I told her." Summer Salad Gin? Fair enough; it certainly works with this bar patron's palate and Morris says she doesn't even taste her own creations. "It's bad luck, you know?" she said.
Well, she must have incredibly good luck because she somehow managed to create a decent gin infusion out of a salad recipe that people want to buy from her by the gallon — and she never even tasted it herself. Impressive.
You might want to invest in some Hendrick's gin and really blow out the cucumber aspects. As for those boozed-up salad ingredients — hey Dana, I'll take those off of your hands next go-round. Who wouldn't want an alcoholic salad?
How to make the Thai Tonic
House-infused gin (brand of your choice; Rubinoff will suffice) with the following ingredients in a gallon jug, 48-hour minimum:
Cucumber, 6-8 slices
Lemongrass, small bunch chopped
Lemon slices, 2-4
Red onion, one medium diced
Pickle juice, 2-3 tablespoons
Sugar to taste
Thick cucumber slice
Use 2 ounces gin infusion, top with tonic and garnish with cucumber and lemon slice.
Where to get the Thai Tonic
2933 O'Donnell St., Canton