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By Ed Sikov
When we left our hero, he had just ruined yet another dinner party with a rare but deadly combination of bad memory and gracious seasonal taste. I had made dill-infused vodka and served it to a good friend who, I’d forgotten, had auditioned for the role of Dill in the film adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and, having not gotten the part, has spent the rest of his life in mortal dread of the very word “dill,” let alone the herb it signifies. I mentioned that the dilled vodka was delicious, and I gave instructions on how to make it, but the following weekend’s (shall we say) full-throated reception of the cocktails I made from it was so overwhelmingly positive I’ve actually decided to expand on the recipe and offer one particular suggestion for a cocktail to make with it.
I acknowledge that I’m not the world’s most humble human being; I can be quite a blowhard sometimes. But I must say plainly and simply that dill-infused vodka is by far the best drink I’ve ever made, and it was greeted as such by our housemates last weekend. They polished off practically the whole fifth in less than an hour. I barely had enough to experiment with, and I wanted to create a martini-like cocktail using the infusion as the base. I snatched the bottle right out of Craig’s pudgy fist to get the last ounce before he gulped it down.
“Heyyyyyy!” he whined.
“Hay is for horses, dear,” I clucked. “How many times must I tell you? What would Princess Grace say if you were at the palace and said ‘hey’ at the dinner table?”
“Outa my way, Letitia!” Craig side-butted me and sent me flying into the refrigerator. He attempted to grab the vodka bottle but I held firm. “Oh, why are you such a douchebag?”
“Douchebag?” I said it as though I was a Harvard anthropologist quoting another anthropologist’s study of self-reporting users of vulgarities in Appalachia. “I simply want enough to try a recipe….”
“Which you naturally will drink yourself,” Craig batted back. ‘OK, fine. Have it your way. You always do. What’s Dr. Mengele’s experiment this weekend?”
“A variation on the martini….”
“A Dill-Tini! Wait, no. A Dill-a-Tini! Or for you a Dill-a-Tante-Tini!”
I was putting my concentration toward measuring a tiny amount of dry vermouth, not Craig’s chatter, so I didn’t hear Dan and Paolo and Chipper come into the room. Their sudden barks of laughter caught me off guard and I nearly dropped the shot glass.
“You know that I hate those stupid ‘tini’ suffixes,” I said huffily. “I’m not inventing the best cocktail of my career only to ruin it with a dumbass name.”
“So what are you calling this masterpiece, Dr. Goebbels?”
“I live with this,” Dan said to no one in particular.
“I’ll bite,” said Chipper. “Why?”
“It’s an homage to the Heinz pickle. The garni is a cornichon or two. Dill? Pickle? Dill? Pickle? Get it? Heinz 57?”
“We’re so lucky to have you in our lives,” I wish somebody had said. But they all turned and went their separate ways. I downed the tiny 57 and felt just fine.
1 fifth Absolut premium vodka
1 bunch dill, washed and dried
dry vermouth to taste
cornichon for garnish
Make the infusion: stick the dill in the vodka, leave it alone for two days, then remove it; this is easy to do if you leave the stems sticking out the top of the bottle and cover it all with plastic wrap. Put the cap back on and stick the bottle in the freezer.
Make the 57s: Just make a vodka martini according to your own taste using the dill infusion and dry vermouth; I like a 4-1 ratio. Rinse a few cornichons under water and dry them on paper towels; drop a few into your finished drinks and serve.