summertime vespers with strawberry, rhubarb + fennel | loud flavors, loud voices


Because it’s summer. Because the air is heavy with heat and nostalgia.
Because this is what we have to keep remembering, the way our bodies
know the waves, the amphibian inside us unafraid of going under,
of what ripples beneath the surface. Because waiting on the dock
for the signal to jump is like thinking someone else is responsible. Because
there is no one else responsible. Because despite the current,
it is possible to swim against it, or even stand, inverted, balancing
on a slippery mulch of murk and mud, and stay perfectly still.
Because when the world tips from view, we have to do everything we can
to tip it back.

β€” Maya Stein, “The Amphibian Inside Us”


This poem founds its way to my inbox this week. I subscribe to a series, “10-Line Tuesdays“, curated by poet, Maya Stein. Her weekly words always stir something deep within my sub-consciousness, evoking undulating layers of emotions. This week’s beautiful lines struck a chord and prompted me to share my thoughts on the current events that have been filling our feeds, provoking our thoughts, and, for some, motivating us to stand up, speak out, and ask questions.

I don’t have live television here at the house, so I learned about the recent shootings last week and the ensuing reactions, via Twitter. As I scrolled through videos, comments, and photos, tears fell. I stopped my current task of chopping strawberries, prep-work for this very blog post. Everything I was doing that moment seemed trite and forced.

I was speechless. Speechless to the point of lying low on social media for nearly five days. Speechless to the point of taking a four-hour road trip out to the western slope of Colorado, with no radio, no cell reception, no television, no discussion.

Just silence.

summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & florasummer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora

Sometimes, silence is just what we need to contemplate, to sift through our emotions and thoughts and rage. Despite its important role, silence cannot perpetuate change. It’s ultimately ineffective in the long-run, a dead-end street. Once I got back home on Tuesday, I spent the afternoon at a coffee shop, catching up on some reading and emails. Somehow, it’s so much less distracting there. I read through bravely written essays, comments online, and posts from some of my fellow bloggers, who used their platform of influence to speak up. To Em, Lily, and the many others who have opened their hearts this past week, thank you for leading the discussion.

I recently wrote a post about chasing dreams, and more and more, I question how different and challenging the very thought of “chasing dreams” might be to someone else, growing up in the shadow of white privilege. It’s a topic we can no longer ignore. It’s a topic we all need to discuss. At work, with our families, with our friends, on social. I am ready for a different world, and I am committed to making an open stand. Because “when the world tips from view, we have to do everything we can to tip it back.” Are you with me on this?

Heaviness aside, it is summertime, and there is beauty in the world to share and soak up. I’m sharing a couple of infusions that I recently made. I wish I could say that these strawberries were from my garden, but the squirrels got to most of them, before I could. The fennel, however, is going absolutely crazy in our backyard. I’ve been roasting it, dashing fronds atop our salads, and, as I’m sharing, infusing my gin with it.

summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora

summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & floraI have had only one Vesper cocktail in my life, mostly because its original recipe packs a mighty punch. James Bond’s favorite tipple calls for three ounces of gin, one ounce of vodka, and a half-ounce of Lillet Blanc. Those ingredients are shaken, served up, and garnished with a lemon peel. I can barely have two glasses of wine these days without waking up to some form of hangover, so finishing off one of these cocktails would leave me passed out on the floor or, worse yet, painting the town all sorts of crazy rainbows and then getting locked up for doing so.

Since I had some recently made fennel-infused gin and strawberry-infused vodka, I thought I’d create a riff on this fiery drink and give it a summertime makeover. I also suggest splitting the recipe with a friend. You know, so you aren’t day-drunk from just one drink. πŸ˜‰


fennel-infused gin


  • 2 cups gin {I used Boodles}
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fennel bulb
  1. Wash and coarsely chop the fennel bulb.
  2. Fill a mason jar with the gin and the fennel, giving it a little shake after sealing the top.
  3. Store on the counter top for two days. Taste for potency on the second day. You may want to infuse it a little longer for a more licorice-driven flavor.
  4. Strain off the solids and use in the following recipe or your favorite herbaceous gin cocktail.
  • This infused spirit will keep 1-2 weeks. I store mine in the fridge, so that it’s nice and chilled when I want to use it and so that I don’t forget about it.

strawberry-infused vodka, inspired by Wit & Vinegar


  • 2 cups vodka {I used Hangar 1}
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries OR 1 cup strawberry tops
  1. Take the sliced strawberries or strawberry tops and combine them with the vodka.
  2. Just like the fennel recipe, give the mixture a shake and keep it on the counter top for two days.
  3. Strain off the solids and store in the fridge.
  • I LOVED Billy’s idea for using up strawberry tops. They usually make it out to the compost bin, but using them for an infusion is pure genius.
  • Keep your strawberry vodka in the fridge. It will also last 1-2 weeks. Put this brightly hued, summery infusion in any fruity or herbaceous cocktail recipe that calls for vodka.

summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora

So, here is where the magic happens. Strawberries, rhubarb, and fennel are all classic pairing companions. The sweetness from the berries matches beautifully with the tart rhubarb. Add that aromatic, licorice-like note from the fennel, and you’ve seriously got a snapshot of summer in a glass.

And like I mentioned above, you can make this recipe and split it with a friend. I recommend serving them up in little Nick & Nora glasses or, like I did in the photos, chilled Champagne coupes.


summertime vesper cocktail


  1. In a mixing glass or tin, combine the gin, vodka, rhubarb liqueur, and Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano.
  2. Fill with ice and shake well.
  3. Strain into chilled coupes and garnish with a fresh fennel frond, rhubarb pinwheel, or strawberry slice.
  • I took Serious Eats’ opinion on using Cocchi Americano in the Vesper recipe. While Lillet Blanc works well here, but I truly prefer Cocchi Americano’s flavor profile. It’s fortified Moscato d’Asti and has a slightly bitter, citrusy finish that marries perfectly with the sweetness of the strawberries. It’s definitely worth adding to your bar cart. So, go with the Cocchi!!

summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora

Cheers to us all stretching our creativity in our cocktails and for embracing loud flavors. And cheers to being louder, braver, and bolder, in these challenging times. Our words and actions are powerful. I truly hope that we also have more discussions with each other on how to make change, how to be loud and heard, and how to ensure that we ALL have the privileges that so many of us take for granted. May we all BE the change we want to see in the world, one step at a time, one conversation at a time.


“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

β€” Howard Zinn


Much LOVE {the very bravest and loudest kind possible} to you,

Jayme

summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora

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21 thoughts on “summertime vespers with strawberry, rhubarb + fennel | loud flavors, loud voices

    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      That means so much!! This particular shoot was especially tricky, and my camera seemed to rebel on me. Technology can be a blessing and a curse. There was a breakdown, in fact, so your words were timely. Thank you for taking the time to say that! XO!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  1. Andrea Giang | Cooking with a Wallflower

    Oh my gosh! This cocktail is soo gorgeous! And I completely understand wanting silence and peace every once in awhile. The news these days are so depressing and sad. It seems like it’s one tragedy after another. But we just have to hope for the best and live our lives to the fullest. Have a great weekend, Jayme!

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    Reply
    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Andrea, thank you so much. I took some more peach and silence this past weekend, hence the delay in responding here. You are so right that we just “have to have hope for the best and live our lives to the fullest.” Getting bogged down and turning down our “light” and creativity means the dark side won, right? Thanks for the wishes for a great weekend – it happened!! ….I’m just playing catch-up tonight, though! I have about three hours to go, I think! XO to you!!

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    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Thank you! Definitely make the strawberry top-infused vodka. It’s a simple one to start with. The fennel-infused gin is a weird one, for sure! It is licorice-like and herby! πŸ˜‰ Do you make many infusions, yourself? CHEERS!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Sarah @ Snixy Kitchen

    I too am ready for a different world. A better world. Thank you for breaking your silence – each voice is one step toward something. Change? Here’s hoping.

    I’m also hoping you make this cocktail for me this week….fingers crosssseeedd

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Maybe we’ll be the only ones up so late, since we both are night owls! You, because you have a little on your hands, and I, because I have a crazy job. I’ll totally make you a cocktail. I’ll at least pour you a glass of wine! I’m bringing a suitcase filled with rosΓ©s and whites! Late-night chats are destined to happen. πŸ˜‰

      And seriously, every step and every word toward bringing the right topics to the forefront are the right thing to do – big or small.

      I can’t wait to meet you and have the most insane weekend ahead! XO!

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    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      You’re welcome, Tessa. You’ll love Maya’s weekly words. This cocktail is a wild one, for sure! I’ve only been getting into fennel this year; I’ve always avoided it because it was too licorice-like. This cocktail was definitely a fun way to learn to love it even more! πŸ˜‰

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    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      AMANDA!! Somehow, I didn’t see your “hello”! Thank you for sharing your words and love. I’m looking at the date you wrote this, and I am realizing that we hadn’t quite met up in MN yet! What fun we had. I so want to go back. It’s crazy, but I really thought time slowed down on that trip. Thank you for making it so memorable and beautiful. XO!

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  3. Christine

    Your words, Maya Stein’s poem, and that Howard Zinn quote at the end are so striking and thought-provoking that I had to just sit for a few moments after reading through. It’s so hard not to feel despair in response to all that has been happening in this broken world but I feel, as I know so many others do too, that it’s the small actions and deciding against apathy that will make change. My heart just feels so heavy lately with all of this. Thank you for sharing your voice! I really love visiting your site, for both your words and your beautiful creations. This one, too, is on my ever-growing “to make” list. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Christine, you are absolutely right that the small actions and deciding against apathy are the tools for change. It’s overwhelming, at times, however. I SO love it when you visit, and I appreciate your kind words and encouragement! Sometimes, I just want to sell the house, run away to a secret island, and just grow vegetables for a living, but then I realize there are so many opportunities for growth right where I am. …..but it’s sooooo tempting… XOXO to you!!

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  4. Pingback: snap pea-infused gin cocktails with basil, cucumber + mint | making adjustments + slowing down | holly & flora

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