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behind the bar: melina hammer’s linden blossom cocktails

by Kristina Gill

Last week, freelance food photographer and food stylist Melina Hammer shared her mother’s Lemon Meringue Pie recipe. This week, she shares a Linden Blossom Cocktail, which she’s been enjoying a lot of this summer. It looks so refreshing, I wish I had a glass right now! — Kristina

About Melina: Melina Hammer is a Brooklyn-based freelance photographer and food stylist and the blogger behind Licking the Plate. Later this year, you can find her speaking on food styling and photography at the 2012 Conference of Nutritionists and Dietitians.

The full recipe continues after the jump . . .

Linden Blossom Cocktails

Linden Syrup

  • 3 cups water
  • 5 cups linden blossoms
  • 4 lemons, zest and juice — shave off any bitter white pith, which lines the skin
  • 1 lb cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups agave nectar


For the Cocktail

  • any white spirit, such as vodka, gin, or tequila — I used Farmer’s Botanical Organic Gin Club soda or seltzer.
  • ice cubes


1. Make the syrup: Add the sugar and agave nectar to the water in a non-reactive pot and bring just to a boil. Stir the sugar to dissolve completely. Rinse blossoms and give them a good shake to remove any insects or debris. Remove sugar water from the heat and add the lemon juice, zest, and flowers. Cover, allow to come to room temperature, and set aside for a day. Refrigerate, allowing the blossoms to infuse the syrup, for an additional 2 to 4 days. Pour the syrup into glass jars or bottles, straining the solids with cheesecloth or a fine-meshed sieve. Refrigerate — it keeps for one month.

2. Put some ice cubes into a mixer. Pour in a 2:1 ratio of liquor and syrup over ice cubes. I free pour, so each is an estimate and should be tasted to your liking. Using a long-handled spoon, stir carefully in a circular motion to mix the two.

3. Place a few ice cubes into the cocktail glasses and add a lemon and/or orange twist: Cut a strip of skin off the fruit, shaving off any white pith (this adds a bitter flavor, which you don’t want). Bend the twist lengthwise and give it a quick squeeze over the glass — outer skin facing out — to release the citrus oils. Rub the glass rim with the twist and drop into the glass.

4. Strain mixture into glasses and top with soda. Taste after adding just a little soda and add more if you like. In this simple drink, the key is to taste each element as you add on to determine how much of each flavor you want to experience.

Why Melina Loves This Cocktail:

Ever since going on a foraging tour with the awesome Leda Meredith, I look at the trees and plants around me in a completely different light. Knowing that these rarefied ingredients are literally right outside my door makes “grocery shopping” a whole new process. I love this drink because it is so easy and delicious. The intensity of the spirit softened by the richness of the honey-like floral syrup is just great, and to finish it with the brightness of the fizzy soda — I’m in heaven. The versatility is great too, as you can mix just the syrup and soda and have a refreshing — and nuanced — drink without much effort at all. Sip up and enjoy!

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  • I love the rustic feeling here. So natural, it could be in the backyard of an Italian country villa!

  • Thank you everyone. BoM, it is completely refreshing! Zed, I love the idea of this Italian villa – that sounds just lovely. Angela, I hope this set your barbeque off in a fantastic way. Nancy, I want it to be a summer staple, only I am about to run out and the bloom cycle is done! That reality has made my enjoying it all the sweeter…. :-)
    Thanks again all for your glow and cheer!!!

  • Who knew those Linden tree a.k.a basswood blossoms would make a great cocktail. Am now interested in finding out if any other wood species can be used to make your home’s bar and the mixed drinks to serve on it.

  • Amanda, linden blossoms are the flowers of the same tree, otherwise known as basswood (thanks, Barina!). When in bloom, the area surrounding the tree(s) smells like honey. Turns out in my area, they are everywhere! The blossoms are seasonal – just like tulips or peonies are – but when they are around, harvest and enjoy.

    Barina, you know that elderflowers make a similar (slightly more floral) syrup. Cherry blossoms also do, as do orange blossoms. I will be co-photographing a new field guide for foraging, and that should hold pretty comprehensive info on exactly what you’re curious about, as well as medicinal plants, etc. Drop me an email if you want to get posts on it release date. :)

  • The cocktail looks so refreshing! i’m going to make it during my lunch, it should get me colder in those hot days of summer ;)

  • Looks lovely, I like linden flower tea and elderflower liquer so I will totally try this next time I can forage the blossoms. Curious question on the sugar syrup/linden flower infusion though: why add both agave nectar and cane sugar? What is the property of the agave nectar that would make the resulting syrup worth the difference? Not being critical, just genuinely curious.

  • Pam, if you like the other flower-based treats, you’re sure to love this one. I mixed agave along with the sugar because I didn’t like the idea of SO much sugar. That, and the slightly mellower flavor of agave seemed like a good idea, to go with the honey quality of the flowers. If you don’t have agave feel free to use all sugar – a bit over 2lbs worth and add 1/2 cup more or so of water. But if you feel like a little adventure, go with the agave. Happy summery weekend!

  • Pretty picture of the drink. Another refreshing drink to combat the heat this summer is the mojito! Especially if you have mint growing wild in your garden!

  • Oooh, I was just creating an edible flower-based signature cocktail for an upcoming issue of Festivities magazine. I used the same basic technique, and am delighted to see it so well liked here!