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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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