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Wine & Spirits

TNH Mixologist: Fig-ure of Speech

November 14, 2020
By Matthew Dowling

So, I married a Greek girl.  

[Read: I married an entire Greek family tree – with shorter branches in New York and Connecticut and longer ones in Limnos (always have to mention that one first for ‘political’ reasons), Crete, Athens, South Africa, and Australia.] 

Even before I met my wife, I was a huge advocate of Greek culture – and especially Greek cuisine. Shocking, I know. 

But tasting food in Greece for the first time was unlike any culinary escapade I had ever had before. The crispness of the vegetables, the freshness of the seafood, the flavor of the stewed meats – everything was unique and flavorful. I think I even experienced what a cucumber was actually supposed to taste like (hint: not like crunchy water). 

My adventure to Greece last August was filled with new experiences: i.e., learning how to make traditional Cretan pilafi, drinking homemade tsipouro out of a ‘glass’ made from a scooped out tomato, learning how to drink tsikoudia the ‘correct’ way, and finally, picking figs from a neighbor’s garden. 

I can honestly say that the figs we picked and ate (skin on, of course) can be considered some of the best dessert bites I have ever had.  

I’m never an advocate of fruit for dessert – and don’t get me started on mixing chocolate with fruit (sacrilege in my book), but these figs were an anomaly.  

Since last summer, my wife and I always order anything fig-centric that we see on a menu – hoping its taste and sensation will take us back to happier, pre-socially distant times. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we haven’t been able to frequent too many different bars or restaurants. We tend to stick to a five block radius around our apartment.    

But, we have taken advantage of our time in quarantine and have come up with a few recipes of our own, drawing inspiration from various recipes we found online. Although I am usually a purist when it comes to drinks – i.e., think ouzo/mezcal/whiskey on the rocks – the incorporation of figs is an exception.  

One of our favorites is a boozy drink that is best made ahead of time and left for a few hours in the refrigerator so that the flavors meld together. It’s worth the wait and honestly, it’s not like we are going much of anywhere anyway. 

A word of caution: one of the things my new family will never understand is my love for a spicy component in most things that I consume – whether it be hot sauce (gasp!), crushed red pepper, or, in this case, ginger. Don’t judge me. Hopefully my love and use of lemon makes up for it. 

To quote the ancients: Παν μέτρον άριστον! (Everything in moderation!) 

What can I say? It’s a fig-ure of speech! 

Στην υγεια μας! 

Ingredients 

  • ¾ cup simple syrup 
  • 10 dried figs, halved 
  • 6-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle mezcal 
  • 1 ¾ cups fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 cup water 
  • Whole nutmeg 

Directions

Combine simple syrup, figs, and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until figs are softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate mixture, covered, 8 hours or overnight. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. 

Place mezcal in a pitcher. Pour fig/ginger syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into the pitcher, followed by lemon juice and the water. Refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours or up to overnight. Stir before serving. Pour into glasses with a single large ice cube. Garnish servings with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. 

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