A Drink to Make You Feel Your Oats

By Walter Nicholls
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 7, 2007

POCANTICO HILLS, N.Y. -- At the bar of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a sophisticated yet earthy restaurant about 25 miles northeast of midtown Manhattan, one of the most popular cocktails is made with oatmeal.

This fairy-tale, Norman-style dairy compound once sheltered the pampered cows of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. The refashioned barn and surrounding 80-acre organic farm, opened in 2004, is an ambitious $30 million project of sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry financed by Rockefeller's son David and his family and directed by chef Dan Barber as the rural counterpart to his original Blue Hill restaurant, in Greenwich Village. The terrific, unfettered food stresses local ingredients and is served in clever ways, such as on a slab of slate or, in the case of baby turnips, on pins affixed to a block of wood.

The mixologist behind the drink, made with vodka that has been infused with oats and honey, is general manager Philippe Gouze. His concoction is not to be confused with the trendy "oatmeal cookie martini" made with cinnamon and butterscotch schnapps, Jagermeister, Bailey's Irish Cream and no oatmeal.

"Every season I try to feature seasonal cocktails that are a reflection of what's happening on the farm," says Gouze, a native of Provence. In seasons past, he has married vodka with such things as yellow beets, apricot pits and lemon verbena. But in winter, even with Stone Barns' 22,000-square-foot year-round greenhouse, there are far fewer ingredients to work with. And that's when Gouze turned to the pantry.

"First I tried hazelnuts," he says. "But it was the oatmeal with honey that worked perfectly, and people raved." The unexpected flavor brings sweetened porridge to mind. But all similarities to a hearty breakfast end there.

Infused Vodka

With Oats and Honey

About twelve 3-ounce servings

What a way to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Quaker Oats Co., which in 1877 received the first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal. The cocktail's originator, Philippe Gouze, uses Heart of the Hudson vodka distilled from local apples. Any premium brand will do.

The recipe calls for multiple strainings, so you might use up most of a standard 9-square-foot piece of cheesecloth. The infused vodka becomes smoother after 1 week in the refrigerator; it is best consumed within 1 month. Adapted from Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

1 liter premium vodka

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

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