Welcome to Test Kitchen — a series dedicated to experimenting with our Edible Garden collection! Each month, we’ll speak with a chef or mixologist about one of our indoor herb or vegetable garden plants. In addition to expert preparation and care instructions, they’ll share an exclusive food or drink recipe that’s as fresh as the ingredients themselves. Next up is Joe Robinson of Detroit cocktail bar Standby, who’s mixing it up with our Kale plant!
When people think of kale, their mind likely turns to a leafy salad or Beyoncé’s kale sweatshirt. But leave it to Detroit craft cocktail legend Joe Robinson to expand our perception of this nutritious superfood. “I love using leafy green juices in cocktails,” he tells Bloomscape. “It truly makes you feel a little better about having a drink, and it’s a great way to sneak in your greens.”
We had the privilege of speaking with Joe for this month’s installment of Test Kitchen, an ongoing series dedicated to experimenting with our Edible Garden collection. Joe has helped spearhead Detroit’s craft cocktail scene since 2015, when he opened speakeasy-style cocktail bar Standby. As the name implies, this high-end watering hole is a downtown standby for innovative and classic cocktails alike. Located in The Belt, a graffiti-adorned alleyway filled with bars and restaurants, Standby is always packed to the brim and has garnered attention from the likes of the New York Times, the James Beard Foundation, and Eater.
If you’re the proud parent of a kale plant from your Bloomscape indoor vegetable garden, Joe has the perfect end-of-summer veggie cocktail for you. Ahead, learn how to make his go-to quarantine cocktail, the Victory Garden.
How to Store Kale
Once you’ve “harvested” your kale from your kitchen windowsill, Robinson recommends storing it in an airtight container until you’re ready to make your drink. Despite its tough exterior, kale is incredibly sensitive — store it in the coldest part of your fridge, and only cut and wash it when you’re ready to start cooking. He cautions against storing your kale with fruits like apples, unripe bananas, avocados, peaches, pears, and plums — they produce ethylene, which can cause kale to spoil.
How to Prepare Kale Leaves
No matter which cocktail you’re making, “all leafy greens and fresh herbs can benefit from blanching,” explains Robinson. For the unitinatied, blanching is the process of scalding a vegetable in boiling water for a specific amount of time, and plunging it into an ice bath shortly thereafter.
This process “preserves the beautiful color and freshness in cocktail syrups,” he explains. “You can swap the kale in this recipe for other leafy greens or even herbs.” Before you start, he recommends double-checking the blanch times for each veggie. “Delicate herbs like mint only need about 15 seconds in boiling water, while kale needs a few minutes.”
Which Spirits Pair Best With Kale Juice?
Joe likes pairing bitter kale with smoky mezcal. “My goal is to mimic the smokiness of charred kale in beverage form,” he explains. “Generally speaking, the vegetal flavors pair really well with agave spirits.” Not a tequila fan? He also suggests a “smoky scotch with kale syrup in a cocktail.”
His favorite kale cocktail is none other than the Victory Garden, which coincidentally is incredibly quarantine-appropriate. “The name comes from World War I and World War II, when the government encouraged people to plant gardens at home to improve rations and boost morale,” he explains. “I, like many others, picked up gardening during quarantine and it’s most definitely a morale-booster.” Find Joe’s Victory Garden kale cocktail recipe below. Cheers!
Victory Garden Kale Cocktail Recipe
- 2 oz Tequila or Mezcal
- 1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
- .75 oz Kale Simple Syrup*
- .5 oz Lime
- Tiny pinch of salt
- Pull the kale leaves off 4 large stems of your plant and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes.
- Remove from boiling water and place in an ice water bath for one minute to cool.
- Remove kale and pat dry with a towel.
- Add blanched kale to 2 cups sugar and 2 cups warm water and blend thoroughly to create the syrup.
- Strain through a fine strainer into a glass jar.
- Add kale syrup, liquor, fresh pineapple juice, lime, and pinch of salt to the cocktail shaker.
- Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with a piece of kale and enjoy!