Gin and bear it
Did you know cucumbers have spikes? All varieties of the familiar green ingredient have a layer of thorns covering their exterior, an evolutionary defence mechanism. These are usually removed before they are sold in the market or the grocery section, but here at Titi Eco Farm in Negeri Sembilam, cucumbers are grown and served au naturale, spikes include.
We’re here in this sprawling landscape of carefully-tended vegetable and fruit patches at the invitation of Hendrick’s Gin. The goal is education, to delve deeper into the fruit behind the taste profile of the Scottish gin. Produced by processing the botanicals through two stills – a Carter-Head still for lighter, sweeter fragances and a Bennett pot still for a more pungent spirit – the predominant flavour profiles of Hendrick’s is Bulgarian rose and cucumber, in addition to juniper. And so we traipse in boots through the farm towards a patch of organic cucumbers where Tasha Lu, Southeast Asia Ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin, and a farm hand teamed up to talk about the life and times of the cucumber. They have spikes! They’re actually fruits! They originated in India! The Egyptian made a drink from fermented cucumbers!
Enlightening! And enriching as well, as we were allowed to pick a cucumber for ourselves from the vines, brushing the spikes off with careful sweeps of the palm. From cucumbers to cucumber spirits, we were then challenged to make our own cocktails – either an easy East Side or a more involved Cucumber Sour – with the bubbly Tasha on hand to offer tips. Cucumbers feature heavily in both cocktails, not just in a gin, but as a flavour base. Which makes sense. Cucumbers may be 95% water but have a wonderfully cool refreshing flavour that is great for reducing stress levels, ease swellings, reducing bad breath and have enough nutrients to be an effective hangover cure. And when finished, the cocktails paired well with the fresh lok lok (cooked skewers) served up from an authentic van nearby. With the gin flowing, the evening slowly settled into a pink haze courtesy of the setting sun, signalling an end to a merry day that ended as it began: with cucumbers and Hendrick’s gin.