Not long ago David T. Smith of Summer Fruit Cup wrote a book entitled Forgotten Spirits & Long Lost Liqueurs that in part was a continuation of the work Ted Haigh put together in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. In Forgotten Spirits David describes a number of flavored gins that were popular in the early twentieth century such as apple gin, mint gin and even maple gin. However, asparagus gin caught my eye.
For two short years in San Francisco, CA the Folsom Asparagus Gin Company produced an asparagus compound gin from 1916-1918. The idea of this gin intrigued me and I figured since I live in San Francisco and I have access to fresh asparagus in season I decided to try my hand at replicating it.
I purchased one bunch of organic asparagus grown in California's Central Valley and 750ml bottle of Taaka Extra Dry Distilled London Dry Gin produced by Sazerac Co. in Frankfort, KY. On its own, Taaka was a surprisingly good classic gin for $9! I washed and cut the asparagus and put the fresh pieces in a 1.75L glass bottle and poured the gin on top. I let the maceration sit a room temperature for 24 hours in my liquor cabinet. After the 24 hours I strained the asparagus gin with a coffee filter to catch any particles and decanted the gin back into the Taaka bottle.
In my mind the idea of asparagus gin seemed like it could work. I imagined the vegetal notes layering on top of the traditional gin botanicals and perhaps taking on a light green color. In reality it came out a bit different.
Color: In the bottle the color is a dark yellow but in the glass it lightens some and the color looks more like is a golden yellow somewhere between straw and honey.
Nose: The nose has a very strong aroma of fresh asparagus and a green note like chlorophyll. There is also a pungent quality to it like wet grass that has been cut and left to decay in the hot sun. All of your typical gin aromas have disappeared.
Palate: On the palate as you first take a sip there is the first hint of gin with a slightly warm and piney character. However, that is quickly swallowed up by a very strong vegetal flavor like the water after making steamed asparagus.
Finish: The finish is hauntingly long of over cooked asparagus and the faintest hints of juniper.
Conclusion: On its own and in this concentration DIY asparagus gin was way too strong and not pleasant.
I now know that one bunch of asparagus was way too much for one 750ml bottle of gin. So I decided to try cutting the concentration and see what happened. Since all of the gin notes disappeared, I decided to cut it with another gin rather than vodka.
Experiment #1: 1 part asparagus gin to 7 parts classic gin. The funky asparagus gin totally disappears on the nose and on the palate. However, the overcook asparagus note came through on the finish which kind of ruined the base gin.
Experiment #2: 1 part asparagus gin to 7 parts contemporary citrus forward gin. Once again the asparagus funk disappeared on the nose but it gave the gin a slightly more earthy body which wasn't bad. The finish also had a bit of the asparagus character and it didn't completely ruin the base gin. Neat the finish would probably be a bit off putting for most people. That being said, I could see this compound gin of asparagus and citrus forward gin working well in a dry martini with an olive or even a Red Snapper.
Concluding Conclusion: In the end, asparagus in small quantities could be an interesting botanical to add into a larger gin recipe, however asparagus gin the way I made it and probably the way the Folsom Asparagus Gin Company made theirs is best to be forgotten.