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Cocktail Challenge: Catnip

Kristin Wolfel of the Charleston crafts a cocktail for her Friday-night drinking buddy.

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Challenged by Henry Prendergast of Analogue to make a drink with catnip, Kristin Wolfel, a bartender at the Charleston, first did some homework: Is the herb that drives many felines bonkers even fit for human consumption?

As it turns out, catnip is edible, though it's more common to brew a tea with it or smoke it than eat it—it produces a cooling sensation and is said to give a buzz similar to the effects of marijuana, inducing giddiness and euphoria. (It was especially popular in the 60s, man.) Catnip is a member of the mint family, which led Wolfel to consider making a mojito with it, but then her cat, Stella, inspired her: "I decided instead to make her a cocktail, so I don't have to drink alone on Friday nights anymore," she said.

The first and arguably most important step is to pour yourself a glass of white wine. After that, it's a matter of making warm milk, then steeping catnip in it while you relax and have a sip or two. Wolfel said it took a couple tries before she hit on a version of the cocktail that Stella really liked, but a garnish of grated crunchy cat treat finally sealed the deal—that and a few blades of fresh wheatgrass. "She loved it!" Wolfel reports.

The cocktail's name has two sources, she told me. "Careless Whisper" is her favorite karaoke song. And after Stella eats catnip, "she doesn't seem to have a care in the world."

Careless Whiskers

8 oz whole organic milk
1 heaping bar spoon organic catnip

For garnish: 1 crunchy cat treat, wheatgrass

For human: 1 glass white wine*

Pour the wine and heat the milk over low heat until warm, about 150 degrees. Add the catnip and steep for three minutes while sipping the wine. Strain the infused milk into a glass (Wolfel used a mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter). Top with grated cat treat and a few blades of wheatgrass.

* A second glass of wine is optional.

Who's Next:

Wolfel has challenged Nandini Khaund of the blog craftcocktailrules.com and an app, Craft Cocktail, to make a drink with pig's blood. "Nandini's a little bit witchy and a lot of bit creative," she said by e-mail. "If anyone can make an amazing drink from blood, it's her."

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