Taste this!

CorrespondentJuly 21, 2006 

  • What: Lemon-cucumber gimlet

    How much: $7

    Where: Enoteca Vin, 410 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, 834-3070, www.enotecavin.com

Enoteca Vin chef Ashley Christensen has earned national praise as one of the country's hottest culinary rising stars. Vin's wine list is no less impressive, boasting one of the most extensive and thoughtfully chosen selections in the Southeast. But one of Vin's most exquisite offerings comes neither from its kitchen nor its wine cellar.

You'll find it on the list of house specialty cocktails. It goes by the name of lemon-cucumber gimlet, though this elegant elixir bears only a passing resemblance to the simple blend of gin and Rose's lime juice that is the classic gimlet.

For starters, the lemon-cucumber gimlet calls for Hendrick's, an ultra-premium Scottish gin infused with cucumber and rose petals, as its foundation. To this the bartender adds freshly squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup - just enough to round off the natural bitter edge of the gin without trampling on its delicate flavors. The gimlet is shaken vigorously with ice and served up, so cold it's smoking, in a cocktail glass garnished with three petal-thin slices of cucumber.

The gimlet's fragrance is like a cool breeze blowing through a summer garden. The taste that follows is like being kissed in that garden.

Surprisingly, Vin's lemon-cucumber gimlet wasn't invented by its bartender, or for that matter by anyone customarily associated with the production of food or drink.

It is the creation of general manager Aubrey Zinaich. It's enough to make you wonder whether there's something in the air at Vin, some magic dust of culinary inspiration that settles on all who work there. The notion seems plausible, especially after a couple of lemon-cucumber gimlets and an impeccable meal. Plausible enough, in fact, that if the waiter tells me about some new gourmet creation whipped up by the bus boy the next time I dine there, I won't be surprised. And I most certainly will order it.

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