Tarragon: King of herbs

tarragon-infused drinksLast weekend, we visited the newly reopened Stamm House. The food and service was good, the décor and ambiance magnificent, and the noise level not so good. For me the highlight was a tarragon infused signature Manhattan.

It was so good I had to learn more about growing tarragon, what else I could use it for, and of course the recipe for the drink.

Tarragon is a perennial that is hearty to Zone 4A (Yay! Wisconsin is an option.). It grows to two or three feet tall and likes moderate sun, and maybe a little shade during the warmest part of the day. Tarragon prefers to be watered well, but is drought resistant.

It has long stems and slender, spiky, dark green, inch-long leaves. French tarragon grows and spreads slowly from tangled, underground rhizomes. You buy plugs versus seeds.

Tarragon is unique in that during growth, it seems to have little aroma. Yet after the leaves or tops are harvested, the oils concentrate and start emitting their unique tarragon sweet smell.

French tarragon is ready to harvest 60 days after planting. Pick young, top leaves for best flavor. Cut back leafy top growth several times during the season to encourage the plant to bush out with new growth.

Tarragon is a useful companion plant for just about everything. The aroma is disliked by most insect pests. Tarragon is also believed to enhance the growth and flavor of crops grown with it.

Tarragon is used in vegetable dishes and soups, mild cheeses, egg dishes, fish and white sauces… but most importantly Manhattans and here’s the recipe I found!

tarragon-infused-bourbonAromatic Lemon-Tarragon Syrup

  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • Peels of three lemons (peeled with a vegetable peeler, leaving as much white pith behind as possible)
  • A handful of fresh tarragon
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

In a small sauce pot, boil the lemon juice, lemon peels, water and sugar when all the sugar is dissolved remove from heat. Bruise a handful of tarragon by rubbing and tearing it between your hands then add to hot syrup. Stir and let the tarragon steep for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture and chill.

The “Walcott”

  • 5 oz. Bourbon
  • ⅓ oz. Lemon-Tarragon Syrup
  • 1-3 dashes of sweet vermouth (I don’t care for vermouth so I skipped this)
  • 3 dashes orange bitters

Combine all the ingredients in a bar glass. Fill glass with ice and stir gently until the glass feels chilled to the touch. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a tarragon sprig.

Recipe and drink photo courtesy of the Olive and Herb


About Kary Beck

Mother and wife, gardener, wine enthusiast, avid online bargain hunter, and owner of two black-and-tan cocker spaniels.
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