In the fall the crimson berries of the Staghorn sumac trees stand upright like little burning torches. Before the rains set in and dilute their flavor, I head out to pick the clusters of berries off the Sumac trees that grow abundantly around the neighborhood. The berries are tart and sour and make a delicious addition to syrups, rubs and flavorings. The acids concentrated in the tiny hairs that cover the berries are water soluble, and soaking them extracts their flavor. The berries I use in seasoning will be left to dry and then whizzed in a blender to create a spice to use on lamb or toss into the Sumac salad.
Yield: Per Drink
2 oz. Gin or Vodka
1 oz. Vermouth
2 oz. Sumac Syrup
Slice of lime
Dash of bitters
Chill two martini glasses and your cocktail shaker in the freezer for half an hour until really cold. Put a few drops of dry vermouth into each glass and swirl it around. Place the gin or vodka, sumac syrup and wedge of lime into the cold cocktail shaker. Add the ice cubes, put the top on and shake. Strain into two martini glasses.
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
6-8 clusters of sumac berries or 4 tablespoons of dry spice
Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved – about 10 minutes. Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and add in the sumac berries. Stir to combine, and allow to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the sugar syrup through a fine sieve.