Folks we have made it! Spring is officially in the air! Every spring Portland graces us with blooms and blossoms that fill the city with their gentle, sweet fragrances. It’s a sign that we’ve made it through winter and warm weather is on its way. I love spring because I can walk down almost any street in my neighborhood and find fresh growth on a bountiful assortment of edible herbs, plants, and flowers. Doug fir tips beg to be plucked, english daisies pop up throughout parks and fields, and borage makes its way back into our gardens year after year. But no spring flower speaks to me more than the cherry blossom.
Every year tufts of beautiful, aromatic flowers burst from branches throughout the city, filling observers with a visual spectacle of an assortment of pastel pinks and whites. While maintaining both excitement and consideration, I walk my neighborhood with a small pair of scissors and a paper bag and snip a few flowers from trees growing here and there. It’s a wonderful way to make a mental map of where, in due time, cherries will grow later in the season. But for now, it’s all about the flowers. Because their time is fleeting, I gather up a lunch-sized paper bag and fill it to the brim with these beautiful florets to make a perfumed simple syrup I use for cocktails through April (and May if I can make it last that long). Paired with New Deal’s Gin No. 1, which boasts flavors of lemon peel and a gentle touch of juniper, this cherry blossom syrup makes cocktails shine. My favorite go-to spring cocktail is a floral take on a gin martini. It’s got just enough kick to keep me warm, but its gentle aroma and softness on the palate always keep me coming back for more.
Cherry Blossom Syrup
In a pot, combine 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water. Get the solution slightly warm— just enough to melt the sugar into the water and then cool. Once cool, add 4 cups of loose (do not pack) cherry blossom flowers. Chill in the fridge overnight and then strain out blossoms. The trick here is cold and slow. Warm water will degrade the delicate aromas. Simple syrup will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.