Mark Sexauer would be an excellent pseudonym for the author of a cocktail tome titled “Aphrodisiacs with a Twist,” but it happens to be the author’s real name. When that same man has a cocktail shaker tattooed below the first knuckle on the middle finger of his left hand, well, you know he has stories to tell.
He’s not telling that particular story in print, but after tending bar for a decade, Sexauer is revealing professional secrets in what he calls a “fun, sexy, approachable” how-to bar manual for novices and professionals alike. Why? “There are so many unapproachable cocktail books out there,” he says. “They are very hard to follow for someone who’s never made a drink at home before.”
Aphrodisiacs stimulate sexual desire, though Sexauer admits, “Over the last 500 years almost everything at some point in time, by some tribe, has been considered an aphrodisiac.” He structured the book’s nearly 100 recipes around 23 supposed stimulants, mostly fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, as well as chocolate and honey.
Sexauer starts with cocktail-making basics: equipment, technique, ice, glassware and garnishes are all covered. But he also gives recipes for some of those mysterious tinctures, infusions and syrups craft bartenders like to play with. Best of all, the compact volume is replete with gorgeous photos styled by Kimberly Swedelius and shot by Charity Burggraaf.
Just flipping the pages aroused a desire in me for a cocktail; in particular the refreshing summer sipper Sexauer mixed for us on last weekend’s edition of “Let’s Eat.” (Listen to the full interview here.)
Called” Fertile Garden” (the book is also full of double entendres), the drink involves gin, lemon juice, yellow bell pepper and simple syrup infused with rosemary (a libido lifter heretofore unknown to me). The recipe is below. Drink it with someone you love. If things get a little frisky afterward, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Fertile Garden (from “Aphrodisiacs with a Twist” by Mark Sexauer)
1/3 yellow bell pepper, washed and seeded
1 1/2 ounces gin (He uses Aviation.)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounces rosemary simple syrup (see below)
Muddle the bell pepper in the bottom of a mixing glass until it is almost a mushy puree. Add the remaining ingredients and shake hard with ice to extract the pepper flavor profile. Pour into a double old-fashioned glass (or strain into a martini glass.)
Rosemary Simple Syrup
5 sprigs rosemary (6 to 8 inches)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Remove the rosemary leaves from the stems, discard the stems, and put the leaves in a pan over high heat (smell fingers and smile). Toss and stir the rosemary until it become a little dry and extremely fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. A handful of the leaves may turn brown; it’s fine. Add the water and sugar to the pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool, at least 10 minutes. Strain out the rosemary and refrigerate.