Friday Cocktails: The Kumquat Rose

Kumquat Rose Cocktail

Kumquat Rose

A recipe for kumquat-infused gin from Matt Lee and Ted Lee's cookbook The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen inspired this cocktail: the kumquat's sweet-tart flavor is perfectly balanced by the herbaceous complexity of Lillet Rose.Helen Rosner

An advance copy of Matt Lee and Ted Lee's latest cookbook, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, landed on my desk a few weeks ago, and I was so charmed by its clever, minimalist cover that rather than tossing it atop the teetering pile of new releases that regularly threatens to take over my desk, I kicked my heels up and gave it a thorough browse. Or at least, that was the plan; instead, I found myself stopped in my tracks on page 34, where the genius Lees present a recipe for kumquat-infused gin—and a selection of inspired cocktails in which to use it.

I'm an unabashed citrus lover, with particular affection for the sweet-tart fruits in the genus: yuzu, Meyer lemon, and most of all kumquat, whose juxtaposition of sweet rind and sour juice is seemingly tailor-made for my palate. Thinly slicing a few dozen of them and throwing them in a jar with gin was a moment's work; after a few days' infusion, I was left with a pale orange, slightly cloudy spirit with a heady perfume and a bright, clear citric sweetness on the tongue. I mixed it in a few of the Lee brothers' concoctions—with sparkling wine for a cheery spritzer, with vermouth for a vibrant martini—but it was when I turned to a bottle of Lillet Rose that perfection was found. The infused wine, with its balanced herbal bitterness and floral sweetness, was a perfect foil to the kumquat gin's own multifaceted flavor. Shaken up and poured into a coupe, it's elegant and full of depth—like the best cocktails, a fusion of the simple and the complex that results in something perfectly otherworldly.

See the recipe for the Kumquat Rose cocktail »