Upstate Pairing

Turn Your Garden into a Cocktail

by janem on May 15, 2017

by Jason Barrett

Black-Button_Cocktails-2016_Stephen-S-Reardon-Photography_02275(1)As the temperature begins to rise, I’m eager to get outside. I know many upstate New Yorkers are also eagerly planting away and awaiting the first vegetables of the season.

You might be getting excited for those fresh tomatoes, carrots, or lettuce, but I can’t wait for the lavender, lilac, juniper, basil, rosemary and thyme and the array of other herbs, flowers, and fruits I can use to make, garnish or even distill spirits for my favorite cocktails.

As the president and head distiller at Black Button Distilling, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with herbs, flowers and fruits to craft our grain to glass sprits. There is nothing better than fresh from the garden.

As you plan and plant your garden, consider adding some of your favorite herbs and flowers to use in your next cocktail. Not only do they taste great, but growing your own fresh herbs, flowers and fruits can also save you a lot of money and extra trips to the store. Why buy when you can grow your own?

Here are some suggestions for herbs, flowers and fruits that you can plant in order to turn your garden into a cocktail.

Muddle them, infuse them or garnish with them—herbs are essential to any cocktail. Whether you keep perennial herbs in a container or plant them in a garden, here are a few to consider
for your next cocktail:

-Basil works great with gin. Try adding basil to our barrel aged gin with some tomato.
-Cilantro works best as a garnish, but is also a great way to spice up a margarita.
-Dill is a natural fit with the corn and oak driven sweetness of bourbon.
-Mint is great with everything! Make yourself a mint julep, and don’t feel limited to bourbon. Brandy, rum, and gin also make a great julep.
-Rosemary is great for a garnish. Gently roast some with a match, extinguish and place on top of a cocktail for an aromatic garnish that can’t be beat.
-Sage works best when paired with a lighter spirit like Vodka or Gin. Add something sweet to balance it out. Sparkling wine would be a great addition here as well.
-Thyme: Put a sprig in a refreshing highball cocktail like a gin and tonic for some inviting aromatics.



Whiskey Smash

2 oz. Black Button Distilling’s Four Grain Bourbon
.5 oz. simple syrup
.5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
5-10 leaves of mint
3 large basil leaves

Combine all ingredients and shake hard with ice for 20 seconds, dump into a large glass, and garnish with fresh basil and mint.


While you’re planning your flowerbeds, think not only about what will look beautiful, but what you might be able to use. Some flowers make for great garnishes or even additions to your next cocktail.

-Elderflower (the flowers of elderberry plants) can be very bitter, but there are lots of great elderflower liqueurs out there, and it can make a lovely garnish.
-Honeysuckle is great with bourbon, honey and lemon, but beware: the berries can be poisonous!
-Jasmine is delicious with gin and green tea.
-Lavender is a great way to add a pleasant floral element to any cocktail. Dry some leaves to keep year round and add to a drink anytime.
-Lilacs are very bitter, but as we know in Rochester, they smell amazing. Garnish a drink with some lilac petals to make it smell and look pretty!

Black-Button-Distilling-Lilac-GinIn honor of the rich floral tradition that Rochester—“the Flower/Flour City”—has cultivated throughout its history, Black Button Distilling has created a lilac gin. Made once a year in a small batch, each flower petal is steeped, distilled, and recombined to create a light, delicate flavor. Rose, hibiscus, lavender and lilac as well as juniper, coriander and a myriad of other botanical components make this one of a kind spirit highly sought after. (Our lilac gin release date for this year is May 12, 2017.)


Bee’s Knees

2 oz. Black Button Distilling’s Lilac Gin
.5 oz. honey syrup (honey and hot water 1:1)
.5 oz. lemon
Small pinch of dried lavender

Shake all ingredients with ice and double strain into a coupe or martini glass, then garnish with fresh edible flowers.


While citrus is great, we have an abundance of fruits in Western New York that also make for great cocktail ingredients. Consider:

-Apples, apricots, peaches and pears all work well muddled into a drink or as a lovely garnish.
-Plums are great infused into gin for a sort of homemade sloe gin.
-Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, sour cherries, sweet cherries, strawberries can all be muddled with vodka, gin or rum for a fruity and refreshing cocktail. And don’t forget to stick a couple on top as a garnish!
-Grapes are delicious when muddled into a sparkling wine cocktail. This is a great way to enjoy grapes two ways.
-Instead of putting watermelon into a cocktail, put the cocktail into a watermelon! Cut a small hole in the top and dig out some room, then drain off any water inside. Pour in your
spirit of choice and you have watermelon infused spirit, and spirit infused watermelon.
-If you have an abundance of tomatoes, make your own Bloody Mary mix! Or you can smash up a couple of cherry tomatoes in the bottom of a glass and top with a bourbon or gin cocktail to add a little zing.



2 oz. Black Button Distilling’s Citrus Forward Gin or Four Grain Bourbon
.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
.25 oz. simple syrup (or a half oz. fruit syrup)

Muddle a handful of berries into the shaker (skip if you used fruit syrup).

Shake with ice and dump into large glass and garnish with fresh berries.


Almost any botanical ingredient can be infused to make a syrup to use in your next cocktail.

Infused Syrup

½ cup herbs, flowers or fruit
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

When making herb syrups, remember to blanche the herbs first by dipping them in boiling water for 30 seconds. This will prevent the herbs from turning black as they break down over time, and will prevent tannins from precipitating and turning your syrup bitter.

Combine ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring well until the sugar dissolves. Let cool, then pour through a mesh strainer. Keep refrigerated. It will last two to three weeks, longer if in the freezer. You can also skip the stovetop by mixing fruit or herbs with simple syrup in a blender, just strain out the solids after blending.

When muddling fruit, all we’re really doing is smashing it up so that the fruit will mix into the other ingredients more completely.

Herbs, however, are much more sensitive, particularly mint. All of the sweet, sweet oils that make mint such a popular ingredient reside on the exterior, while bitter oils are released when it is shredded or smashed apart. So, when muddling herbs, just coax out the oils with a few gentle presses of the muddler, and when garnishing with mint or other herbs, simply give them a little slap between your hands and place them on top of the drink. This will release a great scent without lending bitterness to your drink.

At Black Button Distilling, our tagline is “live large in small batches.” It’s a nod to our craft distilling, grain to glass philosophy. This spring, we hope you’ll also apply that idea to your own garden!


We hope our ideas and tips help you get off to a great start with making garden fresh cocktails at home. But at the end of the day (or beginning—no judgment) this is your garden, and your bar. So play around, experiment, and make something wholly yours.

Jason Barrett is president and head distiller, Black Button Distilling.


Upstate Pairing: November-December 2016

by Megan Frank on November 14, 2016

Brussel Sprout Carbonara with Fettuccini

Yield: 4 servings


8 ounces of dry fettuccini 2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb brussel sprouts, cleaned and chopped (but not too small)
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 ounces smoked bacon, chopped into small pieces 2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 ounces grated parmesan cheese

1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. When it reaches a medium high heat, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for a minute.

2. Add the sprouts, cook until they are browned and become a little softer (not too soft though, you don’t want them to be mushy, but to retain a little bite). Start cooking the pasta when the sprouts are nearly finished. Follow the instructions on the packet for timings.

3. When the sprouts are cooked, move them to the outside area of the pan and add the bacon to the center, allowing it to cook for a couple of minutes, turning a couple of times.

4. When the bacon is cooked, mix it through the sprouts and add black pepper and a little salt. Careful with salt as the bacon and the parmesan will also add a salty flavor.

5. When the pasta is ready, bring your two pans close together on the stove. Then, with tongs, grab the pasta and drag is swiftly into the pan with the sprouts. By doing this you take in some of the pasta water. This water helps bind and create your sauce. You don’t need much, in this case probably about 2 tablespoons worth. This dragging technique should ensure that you have enough.

6. Turn the heat off under your sprouts and pasta. Add the egg (not directly on to the base of the pan but onto the pasta mixture) add the parmesan. Stir through quite quickly, this will create a creamy style sauce.

7. Check for seasoning, and serve immediately with some extra parmesan, if desired.


Fox Run Chardonnay Reserve 2013, Kaiser Vineyard.


Fox Run Vineyards overlooks one of the deepest parts of Seneca Lake, with fifty acres of vineyards producing a remarkable range of fine wines. The Fox Run Café features ingredients from their neighborhood farmers and producers. Also, an on-site garden is filled with vegetables that are featured on the menu.

The property that Fox Run currently encompasses was a dairy farm for more than a century. The first grapes were planted in 1984 and the Civil War-era dairy barn was converted to a modern wine-making facility in 1990. In 1996, farther up the slope a new facility was completed with state-of-the-art capabilities and view of Seneca Lake that is unrivaled. The original barn itself is used now for special events, winemaker dinners and our Food & Wine Experience. The tasting room was designed and built around the barn providing two tasting bars, café and market, and gift shop.

Spend time by having lunch in the café and taking a vineyard tour. Fox Run can ship to 30 states. You might even come across a bottle of Fox Run wine when you travel internationally, as it is available in almost ten different countries around the world.


Upstate Pairing: September-October 2016

by Megan Frank on September 16, 2016

Becker Farms and Vizcarra Vineyards is a 5th Generation family owned 340 acre working fruit and vegetable farm that sells most of their products directly to the public. Becker Farms goal is to provide families with the opportunity to visit the countryside and embrace what Mother Nature provides us among family and friends. It’s the simple things in life that make all the difference.

For the past 100 years Becker Farms has harvested its own fruits and vegetables to provide fresh produce and a wide variety of value added products such as hand made pies, jams, cookies, cider, fudge and wines. In the last two years Becker Farms has adopted a field to table approach with all of its catered events serving items grown and picked for the occasion right from the farm or brought in from other local growers within a 100 mile radius of Becker Farms. Becker Farms believes that a farm fresh meal is a very basic yet integral part of maintaining a strong bond with families and friends. This philosophy strengthens communities and enriches lives.



Summer Squash “Pasta” with Green Goddess Dressing

Yield: 4 servings

2 lbs. mixed summer squash
1 tsp. sea salt
½ cup plain whole milk greek yogurt
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/3 cup fresh chopped basil, plus more for garnish
3 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
3 Tbsp. fresh chopped chives
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped tarragon
1 small garlic clove
1 anchovy (minced) OR 1 Tbsp. drained capers
¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
¼ cup toasted pinenuts
fresh ground pepper

  1. Cut the squash into thin strips using a julienne peeler or spiralizer. Sprinkle the squash with salt, toss gently, and place in a colander to drain for 20 minutes. Carefully squeeze the squash over the colander to release excess liquid and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.
  2. In a food processor or blender, combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, basil, parsley, chives, tarragon, garlic and anchovy or capers and blend until smooth.
  3. Toss the drained squash with the parmesan, pinenuts and desired amount of dressing.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with more parmesan, pinenuts and basil and serve immediately.

Pair with Vizcarra Vineyards Erie Canal Catawba.


Upstate Pairing: July-August 2016

by Megan Frank on July 12, 2016

Nestled in the heart of New York’s beautiful Finger Lakes Region, Ithaca Beer Company demonstrates its pride by brewing world-class craft beer inspired by its home. In addition to year-round favorites, you can also choose from seasonal selections on rotation.

Our recipe this month is paired with Hopkist, one of their summer offerings. It’s a delightful easy drinking and refreshing citrus IPA. With a mild alcohol-by-volume (ABV) of 4.75%, this IPA is wonderfully “sessionable” for the hot summer months. The combination of Honey Malt and Citra hops in both brewing and dry hopping, along with a healthy zip of citrus zest makes Hopkist the perfect summer brew.

Brewery tours are offered on weekends and by reservation, giving a behind-the-scenes look at the facilities.


Arugula Pesto Pizza with Herbed Ricotta

Yield: 1 large pizza

1 ball pizza dough
1 batch arugula pesto (see below)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese, strained if watery
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
olive oil, for brushing
1 1/2 cups freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup raw walnut halves, chopped
zest of 1 medium lemon
2 cups lightly packed arugula

  1. Preheat the oven to 500ºF. Place a pizza stone in the oven and allow the stone to heat for at least 15 to 20 minutes (if you can do 30, even better).
  2. Place the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface and allow to relax for about 10 minutes (but no longer than 30). Roll out and shape the dough and then transfer to a piece of parchment paper cut to about the size of your pizza stone that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pesto recipe below. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, add the ricotta, basil, parsley, honey, salt and red pepper. Mix until combined. Set aside.
  5. Brush the pizza dough all over lightly with the olive oil. Scoop the pesto onto the dough and smear evenly all over, leaving a border around the edge. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the pesto, then drop the herbed ricotta in small scoops all over the top. Sprinkle with the walnuts.
  6. Transfer to the oven (put the parchment paper with the pizza directly on the pizza stone). Bake for about 10 to 14 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven, then sprinkle with the lemon zest and top with the fresh arugula. Slice and serve.

For the Pesto:
2 cups lightly packed arugula
1/2 cup lightly packed baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil

  1. Add the arugula, spinach, sunflower seeds, parmesan, garlic and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Process until smooth. If you want to thin out the pesto, add in additional olive oil a little at a time.


We recommend pairing this recipe with Ithaca Beer Company’s Hopkist.

As with all pizzas, feel free to adjust the amounts of the toppings to your own taste.

If you do not have a pizza stone (though highly recommend for homemade pizza), you can place the parchment with the pizza on a large baking sheet instead and then bake as directed.



Upstate Pairing: Heron Hill

by cathym on May 20, 2016

heronhill-logoblackHeron Hill Winery is nestled into a hillside overlooking scenic Keuka Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes region. For more than 35 years, Heron Hill has won many awards for its distinctive, elegant wines and continues to be at the forefront of cool climate winemaking. Establishing its heritage among some of the first vinifera wineries in the Finger Lakes, John and Josephine Ingle founded Heron Hill in 1977. Through perseverance and long-term dedication to excellence in winemaking, Heron Hill Winery has become a world-class destination.

Heron Hill remains family-owned. For the Ingles, practicing sustainability is a way of life and means giving respect. Respect for the land in how they farm their estate vineyards, and respect for the consumer by offering wines with an authentic sense of place. Also, by providing visitors with a friendly and informative experience.

Today, Heron Hill offers over 20 wine varieties: crisp and light Rieslings, aromatic dry Chardonnays, the winery’s legendary Eclipse series, complex Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Francs, and specially crafted dessert wines.

Visit the vineyard on Keuka Lake, or one of their two tasting rooms located in Bristol and Seneca Lake. You can also read more about the operation at

For this issue, we asked our friends at Heron Hill for a recipe for a tasty early summer treat, and they delivered.

Poached Shrimp Crostini with Garlic Chive Pesto

Courtesy Heron Hill Winery

Serves 4

3 Yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced in half

1 Tbsp. mild yellow Curry powder

1 cup olive oil

6 oz. Chives (a hefty handful), some reserved for garnish

2 oz. fresh mint (a few sprigs), leaves separated

2 cups washed spinach leaves, watercress, or other hearty baby greens

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

16 slices of French bread

1 lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tail removed

1 cup Heron Hill Eclipse White wine

1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning


1. Preheat oven to 375. Arrange pepper halves on a baking sheet cut side down and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in oven and flip after 15 minutes, cook for an additional 10 minutes. After allowing to cool, peel skins from peppers. In a food processor, puree peppers with curry powder and ¼ cup olive oil. Chill.

2. In a food processor, combine chives, mint, spinach, ¼ cup olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Puree until smooth adding more oil if needed. Set aside.

3. Brush slices of bread with olive oil and toast in oven for about 3 minutes.

4. Heat large sauté pan on medium heat, add ¼ cup olive oil, wine, and Old Bay. When it has come to a gentle boil, add shrimp. Make sure that you keep them moving to cook the batch evenly and thoroughly, about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp and set aside.

5. Brush a toast point with chive pesto, arrange a shrimp on top, and drizzle with pepper sauce. Garnish with a fresh chive.

We recommend pairing this recipe with Heron Hill Eclipse White, but it would also go well with our Semi-Dry Riesling. Chives are the key spring herb to use, and mint adds subtle fresh notes, but you can experiment with your own favorite herbs.