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Instant ramen is one of the most typical examples there is of a highly processed, factory-produced food. But when Kiel Schelich of Eight Bar challenged Jill Anderson, bar manager at the Drifter, to create a cocktail with instant ramen seasoning, her mind went immediately to Willowthorne, the small farm she owns just south of Chicago. "This week all kinds of stuff was popping: we were able to pull honey out of our hives, we had a few tomatoes that started ripening up, we had all this amazing purple ruffled basil that came up," Anderson says. "I was thinking, how do you take this very processed product and make it into a fresh, summery, farm-focused cocktail?"
Anderson started with the ramen seasoning, stopping at Jong Boo Market to look for flavors beyond the ones available in most grocery stores. "I found that the flavors are very diverse," she says. "They're not quite as salty as I had imagined, so I could get some really cool, nuanced flavors. I chose one that's more on the teriyaki side." (The ramen package doesn't contain much English beyond the words "noodle soup" and "gourmet spicy," so she isn't sure what the flavor is officially called.)
Anderson stirred the powder into spring honey from her farm, tasting to achieve the right salty-sweet ratio. Then she chose her spirit: Gustaf Navy Strength Gin, which she describes as grassy in flavor, without too much juniper. She muddled a few tart early tomatoes and shook all the ingredients with lemon juice before straining the mixture into a coupe glass. A few drops of Kensington Aromatic Bitters added notes of citrus, resin, and spice, Anderson said. She garnished the drink, which she dubbed the Summer Ramen-San, with purple ruffled basil and a skewer of beef jerky, dried tomato, and fresh tomato.
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz ramen-honey syrup (1/8 tsp ramen powder per ounce of honey)
1.5 oz Gustaf Navy Strength Gin
4 cherry tomatoes, purple ruffled basil, beef jerky, cherry tomato, and dried tomato, for garnish
Muddle tomatoes in a cocktail shaker, then add lemon juice, honey syrup, gin, and ice and shake. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with basil. Skewer beef jerky, one fresh cherry tomato, and one dried tomato and place on top of the glass.
Anderson has challenged Sarah Syman of Otto Mezzo to create a cocktail with kimchi.