You're basically semipro when it comes to oyster obsession, and you've got your favorite drink pairing all picked out: Maybe you're a Champagne gal or a Muscadet man. Maybe you like the driest of martinis or stouts to accompany those shimmering beauties. And you certainly don't care that the R months are here—you know that's a myth.
Well, I was a bubbly-and-bivalve gal myself, until a recent trip to Portland, Maine's Eventide Oyster Co. stopped me in my tracks. A cocktail shimmered in its coupe, an emerald beacon, on the white square napkin of a drinker a few stools down the bar. I put down the wine list—and promptly ordered a celery gimlet.
Concocted by a onetime Eventide employee named Roxanne Dragon, the gin-based concoction couldn't have been a better foil for my plate of oysters. It was somehow equal parts salty and briny, bright and dense with flavor—not unlike an oyster. And it sparkled with a hit of citrus juice. (Think of it as the world's best mignonette but in cocktail form.)
Bar manager John R. Myers had this to say about the gimlet's charms: "It goes so well, because celery itself has some briny notes in it. As a vegetable, it comes across in a way that is vaguely salty that plays really well with the oyster brine."
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He pointed out that ideal oyster-pairing wines have nice acid and minerality, and this cocktail has that in spades. A touch of Chartreuse lends what he calls "subtle earthy and herbal notes" that also do right by oysters.
Myers was kind enough to give us the recipe, but he also wanted to give shout-outs to two other bars with magnificent, bivalve-friendly cocktails. He fondly remembers The Pamplemousse at The Walrus and the Carpenter in Seattle (whose recipe was recreated by cookbook author Molly Orangette here), which mingles grapefruit juice with Aperol and dry white wine. Then there's Boston's Eastern Standard, where the acclaimed drinks menu includes "some incredible tiki cocktails" that Myers dimly remembers being particularly "fun to crush while you're putting down oysters."
So take a chance, young grasshopper, on change. Keep an eye peeled for the cocktail list when you're out for oysters—and if you're planning on a good shucking time at home, tip back one of these eye-opening gimlets.
Recipe adapted from the Celery Gimlet at Eventide Oysters in Portland, Maine
2 ounces gin
1 ounce celery juice
½ ounce lime juice
1 bar spoonful apple cider vinegar
¼ ounce Green Chartreuse
In a shaker, combine all the ingredients. Add ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
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