Cucumber cocktail

Ginger, Lime and Rose Water Cuketail. (Photo and styling by John Houser III, Special to The Baltimore Sun / June 20, 2012)

Is there a vegetable subtler than the cucumber? Well, maybe cauliflower, but when used in a way that maximizes its grassy flavor, the cucumber can prove to be a great buy at your local farmers' market. From May until November, the cuke is used mainly as a topper on salads and as a member of the always bland crudites platter. It dreams of one day becoming a fancy sandwich served with tea.

What it might never have imagined is becoming a bright and thirst-quenching drink for hot summer days. This recipe teams cucumber with gin, lime juice, ginger syrup and rose water. They accent cucumber's smooth flavor with a tangy and floral kick. Don't be put off by the inclusion of rose water. This fantastically fragrant extract is available at most natural food stores and can be used as a base for a granita (or even as a perfume, if needed). If you want to make this drink virgin, substitute seltzer for the gin and add a little more of the ginger simple syrup.

john@rouxde.com

Ginger, Lime and Rose Water Cuketail

5 ounces cucumber water (see below)

3 ounces gin

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons ginger simple syrup (see below)

1 teaspoon rose water

fresh cucumber for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Shake contents until combined and frothy (40 good shakes). Pour over ice and garnish with fresh cucumber.

Cucumber water

3 pounds cucumbers, washed but not peeled, then grated

1 teaspoon salt

Mix grated cucumber with salt. Place in a strainer and let it drain, squeezing every 15 minutes, for one hour. It should yield 1 quart.

Ginger simple syrup

3 ounces ginger root, cut into1/4-inch coins and smashed flat

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

Combine smashed ginger, sugar and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Let cool then strain.

Tip: Take the leftover grated cucumber and mix with Greek yogurt, garlic paste (1 clove), minced fresh mint, and a splash of lemon juice. Finish with salt and pepper for a dip that begs to be eaten with toasted pita bread. It pairs well with the gin cuketail to help relieve the heat of summer.