Cheers! Something to do with those green tomatoes in your garden | Michigan Radio
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Cheers! Something to do with those green tomatoes in your garden

Sep 18, 2020

The ingredients for the Garden Gnome. Yep, that's a green tomato you see behind the basil.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

With a few limes in a bag from the nearby supermarket, I walked into Tammy Coxen’s kitchen and found she had green tomatoes and basil on the counter. Whatever she planned, it sure seemed like it would probably be green. The name made it a certainty: Garden Gnome.

“I just did this drink for my vodka cocktails online class (for Tammy’s Tastings), and it was pretty popular. People really liked it. So I think it's going to be really nice and refreshing. I think that this is going to just feel like that nice time in the garden or maybe what you want when you come in from the garden,” Tammy said.

I was looking at the green tomato she was cutting up and more than a little skeptical about how this drink was going to turn out. On top of the garden stuff, she planned to use vodka, and vodka doesn’t bring any taste to the drink, just alcohol.

“I used the Detroit Steam Vodka from Rusted Crow Distillery in Dearborn,” she said, adding, “It’s a good one.”

She was busy chopping and muddling and noted there’s some work to do before you get to the vodka part of the drink.

“You have to take that green tomato and chop it up into smaller pieces. You need about a third of a cup of green tomato. Adding that to my shaker, I’m going to muddle that with some salt. That's going to bring out the nice tomato-iness,” Tammy said.

Adding salt is something you’ll see in a lot of mixed drink recipes that have vegetables in them. In fact, you’ll sometimes see salt added in drinks with no vegetables such as the frozen daiquiri we featured on Cheers! in August. You can find it here.

“Muddle that up really well, because I want to get  as much juice I can out of the green tomato and that takes some work. Then I'm going to add five leaves of basil, because if I start muddling the basil when I'm muddling the tomato, it will get bitter,” Tammy explained, saying that once the basil is in you only need to muddle it just a few times.

After that, some juice from one of those limes I brought, a very little bit of simple syrup and then the vodka and shake it with ice. See the recipe below.

Smack the basil leaf between your hands before resting it on the top of the drink. That releases the aroma of the basil.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Garden Gnome

1/3 cup chopped green tomato
1 pinch salt
5-6 basil leaves
1 1/2 oz vodka
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (recipe below)
Garnish: basil leaf

Muddle tomato & salt very well. Add basil leaves and muddle gently. Add remaining ingredients to shaker with ice. Shake well and double-strain into coupe or martini glass. Garnish.

Tammy says before you set the beautiful leaf of basil on top of the drink, give it a good smack between your hands. That will release the aroma and give your nose a treat.

I was surprised (not the first time during this series). This drink was very good. It was full of summer flavor, but light and refreshing.

Tammy found the recipe in “The One-Bottle Cocktail Book.” She says it’s a great source if you don’t want to buy a bunch of mixers and fancy liqueurs. The recipes have one base spirit and then ingredients you might just already have at home or are easy to pick up next time you’re shopping.

Update: Earlier version incorrectly called the drink "Green Gnome" instead of the correct "Garden Gnome."

Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham are the authors of Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers from the University of Michigan Press. The book is based on the Cheers! episodes heard on Michigan Radio.