Last month, it was reported that the 2014 Farmer’s Almanac warned that this summer was gearing up to be one of the hottest, wettest and most intolerably humid yet. Today, the official day of the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, The New York Post reports that the “oppressive” heat the Almanac predicted may not be that bad after all. According to The Post, summer weather in the Northeast will be “pretty uneventful”, with temperatures and humidity just slightly above the norm, according to Accuweather meterologist Dave Bowers. This news sure comes like a blast of cool air from the AC, because, as any seasoned New Yorker knows, summer in the city can be, in the words of that famous girl group from the ’80s, “cruel, cruel”. For Icelanders, however, June 21st marks a day of sun for 24 hours, and they celebrate in all kinds of interesting ways, from rolling naked in the dew to ward off illness for the year (an ancient Viking custom) to haunted walks in search of elves, trolls and the like. Reyka Vodka, the vodka distilled with Iceland’s lava rocks, celebrated with a special menu of solstice inspired cocktails created by mixologist Eben Klemm, on June 12th, at Gallow Green on the roof of Chelsea’s McKittrick Hotel.
Klemm, working at his makeshift spirits lab like some kind of moonshine Walter White, demonstrated four unique cocktails, all variations on the theme of celebrating the end of the darkness of winter. The “Breaking Bad” analogy is not that far off the mark in describing Klemm. Although he is a renowned mixologist and not an illicit meth cooker, Klemm did attend MIT and is a former research biologist, so he is right at home with beakers, bunsen burners and Erlenmeyer flasks. At Gallow Green, Klemm mixed Reyka Out of Darkness, a milk punch using skyr – an Icelandic-style yogurt that is a staple to the Icelandic diet, the Reyka Morning Dew Drop, representing that Viking rolling-around-naked-in-the dew ritual, with wildflower honey and herbs pulled from Gallow Green’s herb garden, the Reyka Appearing Sun, signifying the 24 hours of sunlight during the solstice, which he made with wild lingonberry puree and a tiny quail egg, and the Reyka Bonfire, marking the tradition of building bonfires at every Icelandic solstice celebration. Klemm built a small fire in a fire-proof container filled with dried moss and dried flower petals, then captured the smoke inside a rocks glass. He added Reyka and three drops of Reyka bitters and combined this with ice. The cocktails were served with traditional Icelandic nibbles like potato chips with caviar and lamb tartar.
Reyka Vodka is hand crafted in Iceland using lava rocks as a natural filtration system; the rocks have a zero tolerance for impurities. Icelandic glacier spring water is already pretty pure, but it is refined even more to give Reyka its silky finish. The distillery, in Bergarnes, is powered by steam from nearby hot springs, the geothermal energy captured from deep within the earth. A rare Carter-head still (there are only 6 in existence), the first of its kind to distill vodka, is considered the best way to remove impurities, resulting in Reyka’s smooth taste. Reyka Vodka is hand crafted in small batches to ensure each and every bottle retains the highest quality. The taste is exceptionally smooth and rounded with a soft natural sweetness and a slight hint of wild fruits on aftertaste.
Reyka Out of Darkness – a milk punch using skyr – an Icelandic-style yogurt that is a staple to the Icelandic diet
2 oz. Reyka Vodka
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. whole milk
1/2 oz. Siggi’s Skyr yogurt
Combine all ingredients. Stir well. Place mixture into a ultra-thin strainer or cheese cloth. Allow the mixture to sit overnight so that the dairy strains out of the cocktail into a smaller glass. What remains the next morning is the finished cocktail. Serve chilled in a coupe glass.
Reyka Morning Dew Drop – representing the pagan ritual of rolling around naked through the dewey grass
3 oz. Reyka Vodka
1 oz. wildflower honey
Morning Dew mixture (fresh herbs like Dill, Mint, Thyme)
First, prepare the dew mixture by using a blender to mix dill, mint, thyme and one ounce Reyka. Strain the mixture into a spray bottle.
Mist the inside of a coupe glass with the dew mixture.
In a cocktail shaker, add remaining Reyka and honey and ice. Shake well so that honey is dissolved in the Reyka. Strain into the dew-splashed coupe glass.
Reyka Appearing Sun – signifying the 24 hours of sunlight during the Solstice
2 oz. Reyka Vodka
1 oz. wild lingonberry puree (or raspberry)
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1 quail egg, separated
Add all ingredients except the egg yolk to a shaker. “Dry shake” (without ice) for 10 seconds to whip up a froth. Next, add ice and shake for 20 seconds. Strain and serve up. Garnish with the egg yolk
Reyka Bonfire – a tradition at every Solstice celebration
3 oz. Reyka Vodka
In a fire-proof container, build a small fire of dried moss and dried flower petals. Capture the smoke inside a rocks glass. In a mixing glass, add Reyka and 3 drops of Reyka bitters over ice and stir to combine. Strain over fresh ice into the smoked rocks glass.