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Is this the taste of Sacramento summer?

Recipe: White Linen cocktail with fresh cucumber and lemon

The White Linen cocktail was invented in Sacramento.
(Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Is cucumber and lemon really the taste of Sacramento? The combination is undoubtedly refreshing and fills this cocktail with both flavor and fragrance.

Debuting during Sacramento’s 2008 Cocktail Week, the White Linen has been getting a lot of buzz lately. The New York Times featured it as the “signature cocktail of Sacramento.” Raley’s announced it will be marketing a pre-made White Linen mix.

Invented by mixologist Rene Dominguez of Ella’s Dining Room and Shady Lady Saloon, the White Linen starts with dry gin. Dominguez recommends Hendrick’s, which has a cucumber note to its base. Elderflower liqueur (such as St. Germain) adds hints of pear and elderberry. (Although those are French elderflowers used in St. Germain, elderberry is native to the Sierra foothills and grows well in Sacramento, so that’s anther nod to its hometown.)

Cucumbers and lemon add summery bursts of flavor. Cutting up the cucumber and giving it a good long shake muddles the veggie and releases its flavor into the gin. The result is a very sophisticated, grown-up cucumber-lemonade; kind of like cucumber water with a kick.

Does it taste like Sacramento? You be the judge.

Cucumber and lemon on a cutting board
Cucumber and lemon: How refreshing!
White Linen cocktail

Makes 2 servings


½ fresh cucumber

1 lemon

2 tablespoons simple syrup* or powdered sugar

3 ounces (2 jiggers) dry gin

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) elderflower liqueur


Sparkling water


Slice six thin slices of cucumber for garnish; set aside. Chop the remaining cucumber into 1/2-inch pieces.

Juice lemon. To the juice, add simple syrup or powdered sugar. Mix to dissolve.

Overhead view of cocktail glass on white napkin
Toast midsummer with a White Linen.
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon mixture and chopped cucumber. Cover and shake 15 to 30 seconds.

Fill two tall glasses with ice. Pour mixture through strainer over ice, equally dividing between glasses. Add sparkling water and stir. Add reserved cucumber slices as garnish. Serve immediately.

* To make simple syrup: In a small saucepan, dissolve ½ cup sugar in ½ cup water. Bring to boil and boil 1 minute. Let cool before using. Store in refrigerator.

Easy variation: Substitute Sprite for sparkling water. Omit simple syrup or powdered sugar. Result is more citrus-y.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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