Photo by Chris Casella

Bar Bet: Chrysanthemum

Bartenders, while a friendly bunch, can sometimes be a bit competitive. Each season, as new menus roll out across town, there is a bit of cocktail envy that inevitably takes place. With a seemingly endless pool of ingredients to choose from when formulating a new drink—and a similarly endless list of failed attempts to use them—(614) presents Bar Bet, a special cocktail challenge for bartenders to come up with a cocktail using a weird ingredient of their challenger’s choice.


Till Death Do Us Part

1.5 oz. Mum Bombay Sapphire*

.5 oz. Lemon Juice

.5 oz. Green Chartreuse

.5 oz. Ohio Honey

Shake with ice and strain over crushed ice in a tulip glass. Garnish with mums, and accompany with Aperol chrysanthemum molecular bubbles** or “boozy bubs”

*Mum-infused Bombay Sapphire

Combine 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup dried mums, petals from five white mums, petals from five yellow mums, peels from one lemon, and peels from one lime in a clear plastic bag. Seal the bag, and place in a sous vide water bath for 40 minutes at 140 F.

**Aperol chrysanthemum molecular bubbles

• Make a ‘mum’ simple syrup by boiling equal parts sugar and water until dissolved, then add chrysanthemum flower petals and simmer at low heat, let cool, then strain to remove petals.

• Blend 1/2 cup mum syrup, 1/2 Tsp calcium lactate, 1/4 cup Aperol in a blender to combine and create “bub juice.” Make an alginate bath by dissolving 2 grams of sodium alginate in 2 cups of water with a blender. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

• Use a syringe and drop “bub juice” into alginate bath, attempting to make spheres if your lucky (I wasn’t). Let sit for one minute, spoon out of bath. Pick up the “bubbles” thus formed with a pierced spoon and rinse in a bowl of water.

The final days of spring are upon us as we ease into summer. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and all the flowers are in full bloom…except chrysanthemum, of course. That blooms in the fall. Fitting that it would be our springtime challenge ingredient.

Over a picnic in Goodale Park, Rebecca Monday and I shared a cocktail (don’t tell the cops, narc) as she told me about her trips to multiple international markets in search of the elusive ingredient, eventually finding dried chrysanthemum at Saraga International Grocery, as well as some fresh flowers at Kroger. She also gave me a little insight into what the flower symbolizes around the world, and that’s when our sunny picnic got a little bit morbid. While most of the United States finds the chrysanthemum to be a cheerful happy bloom, the rest of the world doesn’t agree. Throughout much of Europe, and some Asian countries, chrysanthemums are associated with death, and are only used for funerals, or as a symbol of grief. Nowhere is this belief more prevalent than in France, the country of origin for one of the ingredients in Monday’s cocktail; Green Chartreuse. Perhaps not surprisingly, New Orleans with their historic French origins, also observe this association with death. So next time you head down to The Crescent City, don’t greet your host with mums.

Without further ado, let’s talk about this drink, and the woman behind it.

With a few years behind the stick at Curio, and fresh from an appearance at the Regional Midwest Finals for World Class, the foremost bartending competition in the world, I knew Rebecca would be ready to impress in the flavor and presentation department. The fact that she staged it all on a picnic blanket—with a basket and everything—was a nice touch, though. Amid the green grass and leafy tree’s that shelter Columbus’s homeless population during midday naps, Monday begin by pulling a canvas lewis bag and a wooden mallet from our picnic basket, along with a silver bucket full of ice. She asked me to fill a jar with water from her water bottle while she crushed ice in the bag with the mallet, before placing chrysanthemum blooms in the jar as our centerpiece. This was some Better Homes and Garden-level shit.

While filling two beautiful tulip-shaped glasses with crushed ice, she game me a little insight into her process, which included infusing Bombay Sapphire gin with dried chrysanthemum, fresh mum petals, and citrus peels inside a sous vide water bath. This infused gin was combined with fresh lemon juice, Ohio honey, and Green Chartreuse just before our picnic, and then packed with ice in a glass bottle, and stowed away in the basket. After she poured the chartreuse tinted cocktail, she produced a small dish from the magical picnic basket filled with dreams, upon which she placed a few “boozy bubs” as she called them, a name I wholeheartedly approve of. These gelatinous, booze filled bubbles are similar to what you might find in bubble tea, but aren’t quite as simple. To prepare them, a mixture of chrysanthemum syrup, Aperol, and calcium alginate, is dropped from a syringe into a bath of water and sodium alginate where, through a chemical reaction, the liquid forms semi solid sphere-like shapes, or blobs that contain the delicious mixture still in liquid form. That’s a lot to explain, and mostly you don’t need to worry about it—just know that they were delicious bubbles of “bub juice” (another Mondayism) and a perfect compliment to the drink. The drink itself was a combination of flavors you would expect sitting on a blanket on a spring or summer day in the park. Floral, citrus, slightly sweet, and ultimately refreshing with the inherent botanicals of the gin mixing with new and exciting flavors in the infusion. The crushed ice allowed the perfect amount of dilution and formed a nice frost on the glass, a considerable upgrade from the last drink I had at Goodale—warm beer in a giant plastic mug. We sat on that blanket sipping our drinks well beyond the time necessary for photographer Chris Casella to get the shot, and then stayed even longer after he left entirely. I would have stayed there all day, but Rebecca had to get to work, and there was the very real possibility that we would get busted for open container. It would have been worth the ticket. Maybe they’ll consider Goodale for the new open container zones later this year. Who’s next? Rebecca has challenged Chris Spinato of Sidebar to craft a cocktail using aloe as an ingredient. Perhaps he’ll take me on a date to the conservatory, or to the theatre, or maybe just to Sidebar. The picnic has been done, and it can’t be topped.