I've always thought of Christmas trees as kind of a sad waste of trees. I'd actually tear up a bit, thinking of all of the sadly hacked off trees that would fill people's lives with joy for a mere three weeks only to be tossed to the curb as a public nuisance. Those sad little trees seemed to represent the affluenzic version of The Giving Tree. All that changed when I met a girl named Christa who grew up on a Christmas tree farm. I had no idea such a thing existed. All of a sudden my image of heartless, brutal and grizzled lumberjacks slaughtering the helpless oldwood forest shifted. I imagined a land full of snowmen and singing elves tending the land and whistling a stream of rainbow-colored claymation musical notes into the frosty air while glittering snowflakes floating over the landscape.
"It's not really like that," Christa admonished me. "It's actually a lot of hard work." She kept on catechizing about the seriousness of purpose involved in a Christmas tree farm, but her words were overshadowed by her tiny stature, ink-black hair, milky white skin, upturned button nose, and slightly pointed ears. You can say all you want, but when you look like an adorable little elf and your name is Christa and you grew up on a Christmas tree farm, all I can hear coming from your mouth is Christmas jingles.
So I bought a teeny little Douglas fir that peaked somewhere around my mid-thigh. I proudly paraded home from the store, smiling and feeling proud of myself for taking the initiative to embrace the holiday mirth after my Year of Biblical Plague Living. I plunked it down in my apartment and waited for the claymation notes to start emanating from its branches.
It just stood there, looking like a very normal, very nonmagical fir.
I hadn't thought much beyond this point. I'd just sort of assumed that I'd get the tree in the house and it would emit holiday cheer from magic imparted by the Christmas tree farm elves. I'd completely overlooked the trimming of the tree. I scrambled around my apartment and managed to come up with six ornaments I'd somehow collected over the years. The effect was more depressing than magical. The tree stood in the middle of the floor, periodically emitting a Charlie Brown sad-trombone noise. So I turned to my jewelry box, and one hour later, my tree was decorated with Mexican earrings I'd once thought of as gaudy, bangles from my recent stint as a bridesmaid in India, and a ton of concert buttons. Long strands of Ugandan paper mache beads looped around the tree, simulating tinsel. Topping the tree was my shiny silver deputy star badge from Halloween a few years back, claiming this Christmas in the name of Sheriff Bitch.
"That's quite the hipster little tree you've got there," my friend wryly commented in a less-than-complimentary tone. "Next year why don't you just cut out a bunch of handlebar mustaches from brown construction paper and call it a day?"
Why hadn't I thought of that before?
I've grown quite attached to my little tree; it's made my hearth feel like home. So I devised a way to give myself an excuse to hold onto it for a little while longer in the best way I know how: use it for drinking.
Infusing the Gin
What You Need:
- 16 oz of London-style dry gin. I like New Amsterdam -- it has more citrus notes with less juniper, so it provides a fairly neutral and light base that you can play around with. Plus, it's pretty cheap.
- 16-oz mason canning jar with sealable lid.
- 3-4 2-inch strips of Douglas fir, rinsed well
What You Do:
- Toss the Christmas tree strips into the mason jar
- Pour the gin over them
- Seal the can and store in a dark place - your cupboard should be fine.
After 2-3 days, the gin will have taken on a fresh evergreen taste. You can leave the tree strips in there as long as you want to make the flavor stronger. Once you have the desired strength, take out the branches - if you wanted to get really anal about it, you could run it through a thin cheesecloth to make sure you're not bringing any unintended nature into your cocktail.
So what do you do with Christmas Tree gin? I made a very simple take on a Woodsman Sour.
Christmas Tree Farm Sour:
- 2 oz Christmas-tree infused gin
- 1 oz St. Germain
- 1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pour the lemon juice, then the spirits into the glass half of a shaker, add ice, then shake vigorously. Strain. Flame a lemon peel over the mixture and garnish with a small sprig of Christmas tree. As your friends sip and enjoy, feel free to remind them how they made you feel bad for keeping your Christmas tree too long.