Cold, refreshing beverages are an important part of my life right now and will be until the end of this hot, hot weather. So, I was thrilled to find some pages I cut from the April issue of Food and Wine that were full of cocktails and mocktails. This almond-fennel beverage was intended as a mocktail, but I couldn't resist adding some vodka. The flavors sounded intriguing, and since it's made with orgeat, I had to try it. Last year, I found myself in the middle of an orgeat search and learned that it's exactly the same as almond syrup. For the fennel flavor in this cocktail, a second syrup is made by steeping crushed fennel seeds in water and then dissolving sugar in it. The bubbles from club soda and the green, frilly fennel frond garnish gave it a cool, crisp look making it an inviting way to combat the heat.
You'll need to make the fennel syrup in advance since the seeds need to steep for about 20 minutes. A tablespoon of fennel seeds were crushed in a spice grinder and then added to a cup of water which was brought to a boil. It was removed from the heat, covered, and allowed to steep. Then, the seeds were strained as the water was poured through a sieve into a jar or measuring pitcher. One cup of sugar was added and stirred until it dissolved. The fennel syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for a month. To make the cocktail, combine orgeat, or almond syrup, fennel syrup, fresh lemon juice, and vodka if you'd like. Add ice, stir in club soda, and garnish with a fennel frond.
The mild anise of the fennel syrup blended nicely with the almond flavor. You should taste as you mix because I found I wanted a little more fennel syrup to be sure it didn't get lost behind the almond and lemon. It's true that I'm happy to see just about any beverage over ice these days, but the interesting flavors in this one made it particularly refreshing.