Birthday Drink: May Wine

Today is my birthday, and this weekend I celebrated with a new drink. This is a traditional German drink, and in German it is known as Maiwein (May Wine in English). It is easy to make and uses the best-smelling herb in our garden: sweet woodruff.

Here are a dozen sprigs of sweet woodruff after being dried in the oven. Drying it brings out all the flavor and aroma, so it's an important step. To do this, rinse off the herb and put it on a cookie sheet and into the oven on the lowest heat setting you can manage. The way you time it is by smell — when your kitchen starts to fill up with a fresh hay or vanilla scent, take it out.

Step two: Add the dried woodruff to a bottle of Reisling. I recommend using one that's actually from Germany — the California ones I've had lately are way too syrupy-sweet. Reisling is sweet, but it doesn't have to taste like Kool-Aid. I used Clean Slate — inexpensive and quite good. Pour off some of the wine and add the sprigs of woodruff to the bottle. You can use the handle of a wooden spoon to press all the herbs down into the bottle below the wine. Use a funnel to pour back in the wine you took off the top, and any that won't fit back in is a free drink for you. By the way, don't let the screw-cap turn you off — it works great for this recipe, because you can easily re-seal the bottle. Close the wine back up and keep in the fridge for about three days.

Step three: Strain the wine as you pour it out of the bottle. May Wine is just wine and woodruff, and that tasted surprisingly great. Really great — I have a new favorite springtime drink! We took ours a step further and made our May Wine into a punch known as Maibowle. This is half May Wine and half champagne, with the addition of cut up strawberries:

As you can see, I garnished ours with some fresh sweet woodruff flowers as well. This is a gorgeous drink,  and the fizzy champagne was fun for a birthday celebration. The champagne overpowered the rest of the flavors for me, though — too strong for a somewhat delicate drink. In the future I would stick to the May Wine with the strawberry garnish, and skip the champagne. Or maybe I'd give it a try again with a much smaller proportion of champagne — a 3 to 1 ratio of May Wine to champagne. Or maybe a less dry champagne? I suppose some experimentation is in order to get this just right ... and that should be fun!


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