Have you ever eaten a kumquat? Have you ever seen one? Well, I remember the first time I tried one and it just happened to be in my in-law’s kitchen in Colorado. My father-in-law, Bob, is the resident grocery-shopper and seems to come home with various foods that cause him to brim with enthusiasm. And really, I totally identify with this side of him as I get overly enthusiastic about food all the time.
On this particular day, I distinctly remember my dear father-in-law saying, “Have you ever seen one of these?”
He held in his hand what looked like a miniature orange of some sort.
I timidly said, “No, I don’t think I have seen one of those. What is it?”
“It’s a kumquat! Just pop one in your mouth, go ahead…” he said anxiously.
“The whole thing? Just put it in my mouth and eat it?” I was definitely nervous. And unsure.
“Yes! Trust me!”
“Ok, ok!” I replied as I *popped* the curious orange sphere into my mouth.
I remember being surprised at how tender the skin was. Rather than being tough and bitter like the skin of an orange, I could easily bite right through it. A sweet flavor was released into my mouth and I was stunned. I loved it.
Until last week, I hadn’t eaten another kumquat. I hadn’t even seen another one of those bright orange treasures. Fortunately, they are in season right now and very present in many grocery stores around our Tokyo home. I didn’t think twice about grabbing a bag of these jewels the moment I spied them in the produce department.
Staring at a bowl full of kumquats sitting in my kitchen, I tried to decide what on earth to do with them. Yes, I could eat them all just the way they were and it would be a perfectly lovely way to savor these small citrus fruits. But I wanted to showcase them in some way. Then *bang* *boom* *thwap*! In true superhero style I was hit with the idea to make a cocktail. Yes. That was the answer.
I tried to stay true to the flavor of the kumquats in this drink. By muddling them with some rosemary-kumquat simple syrup, the sweetness found in the skin (which is more desirable than the almost non-existent flesh) is released. The simple syrup lends a gentle rosemary flavor that helps to bring a warmth to the citrus flavor in the kumquats. By using light brown sugar for the simple syrup and adding two kumquat halves, the flavor is slightly toasty, herby and citrusy (that’s a lot of -y words….sorry!) An added bonus is that adding the kumquat halves to the simple syrup candies them slightly. Once the seeds are removed, a slit is cut into the kumquat half and then the whole thing is rolled in sugar, a perfect garnish is born.
The toasty flavor of the brown sugar combined with the comforting rosemary lend a cozy softness to the kumquat cocktail. Hence the name “The Kozy Kumquat”!
Thanks to Bob for showing me the joy of the kumquat. Your crazy discovery was very useful! Kanpai!
The Kozy Kumquat
Makes 1 drink
4 kumquats, halved
3 teaspoons rosemary-kumquat simple syrup (recipe follows)
1 sprig of rosemary
1/2 kumquat, candied (see simple syrup recipe)
2.5 oz. gin
1.5 oz. dry vermouth
In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the kumquat halves with the simple syrup and vermouth. Add the gin and ice. Shake until the shaker is so cold you can hardly stand it. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Add ice if desired or serve martini style. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a candied kumquat half.
Rosemary-Kumquat Simple Syrup
Makes 1/4 cup (about enough for 2 drinks)
2 T light brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 rosemary sprig, roughly chopped
2 kumquat halves
In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar and the water. Stir until the sugar has just dissolved. Add the rosemary and kumquat halves. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the syrup so it does not over-cook. Stir occasionally to keep the syrup from burning. Remove from heat. (If you would like to strain the syrup, do so after the kumquats have been removed from the pan and do not wait until the syrup is cool.)
Remove the kumquat halves and immediately remove the seeds. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a small slit across the cut edge of the kumquat halves (this is so you can place it on the edge of your cocktail glass). Mound the extra brown sugar on top of the kumquat halves and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.