Fennel inspires a new twist on the Bloody Mary

Most people have had fennel seeds before — they’re common in Italian sausage — but they might not be able to identify the taste, an earthy, sweet, peppery spice. And the less adventurous cooks and eaters among us might be wholly unfamiliar with the crunchy, lightly sweet, anise-like taste of fresh fennel bulb. Paired with the right flavors (my first dip into this territory was fresh fennel bulb and orange slices in a light vinaigrette) this herb is a refreshing change of pace.

But even I had never had fennel in a cocktail, before I tried Tia Murray’s fennel infused Bloody Mary. “We had a lot of fennel,” she told me, and they were looking for new ways to use it.

I can relate. I’ve put fennel in a garden before, and can attest to its productivity. This plant will take up a good amount of garden space and gets up to seven feet tall. And you get a lot of fennel from just one plant because the entire plant is edible. Add fresh leaves to fish, salads, and cooked vegetables. Slice the bulb raw into salads or cook it like you would a root vegetable. The dried seeds, mixed in a tea or infusion, are considered a digestive, helping with bloating and stomach pain, and also helping increase nursing mothers’ milk flow.

Murray’s fennel-infused carrot juice spin on a Bloody Mary is a sure-fire way to wake up your mouth at a weekend brunch. Her version was garnished with a pickled ramps, cucumbers, rhubarb, and an olive.

Murray added Spice’s house-made “yum yum” sauce, made with ginger, tamarind, and chili, “to give the drink a meaty umami flavor,” but regular Worcestershire sauce will do.

Cocktail 5Farmer Mary

Ingredients

  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 3 teaspoons of hot sauce
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of celery bitters
  • 1/4 oz pickle brine
  • 2 oz carrot juice
  • 1 1/2 oz fennel-citrus infused vodka (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 oz vodka

Directions

Salt and pepper the rim of a glass. Fill with ice. Shake all the ingredients and poor into the glass. Garnish with pickles, olives, and a small piece of fennel stem.

Fennel infused vodka

  • 1 bottle of vodka
  • 2 large or 3 small fennel bulbs (save the fronds)

Clean and cut fennel bulbs, place in a large jar and cover with vodka. Let sit 3-5 days, shaking every day. Taste after 3 days and add the fronds if more fennel flavor is desired.