Every Christmas, Buffalo & Bergen owner Gina Chersevani used to love making drinks with a fancy bottle of pine liqueur. But the product was kind of pricey. “We had a Christmas tree, and we were trimming the bottom. I was like, ‘I’m just going to cook it. And I did,'” she says.
Her pine syrup has made its way onto cocktails at her Union Market bar and soda shop over the last few years, but it’s also easy to make at home. Chersevani recommends using organic spruce or Douglas fir trees from places like Whole Foods or Nalls garden center in Alexandria. “I wouldn’t really trust something from Home Depot or Lowe’s just because it’s cheaper,” she says. Alternatively, you can forage for pine tips out in, you know, nature. (Although, take note, some types of pine can be toxic.) Don’t try the tree bark—she’s experimented with it, and it’s not great.
Chersevani suggests making the syrup straight to start. But once you’re familiar with the flavor, you can experiment with ingredients like orange, cinnamon, or green cardamom. She says the syrup is great in a dark hot chocolate, but she also shared an easy, refreshing gin cocktail recipe to make your holidays more festive.
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup of loosely packed pine needles removed from the branch
1 cup fino sherry
In a medium saucepan, combine, water, sugar, salt, and pine needles bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for five additional minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the pan covered until the syrup has cooled to room temperature. Strain and reserve liquid. Then combine with 1 cup of fino sherry, and store. The mixture keeps about 2 months in the refrigerator.
Makes one cocktail
2 ounces Bluecoat Gin
¾ ounce fortified pine syrup (see above)
1 ounce lime juice
1 dash orange citrus bitters
In a shaker, combine all the ingredients, fill three-fourths full with ice, top, shake, and strain over fresh ice.