Take a tip from the pros for summertime imbibing: Look to the produce aisle when prepping your beverages.
It’s time to incorporate fruity garden or farmers’ market plenty into cooling cocktails, and there are many ways of doing it tastefully.
Muddling melons, strawberries or raspberries (as Adam Gorski, La Belle Vie’s lead bartender, does with the latter) into a Pimm’s Cup variation or other heat-combating elixirs is a tried and true method. When doing so, especially with seedier fruits, bartenders suggest double-straining the concoction with a fine mesh strainer for a less messy drink, one that won’t require a toothpick afterward.
No muddler? No problem. Nick Kosevich of Bittercube and Eat Street Social said shaking certain fruits like berries has the same effect, as the ice should sufficiently pulverize the fruit. “You don’t have to muddle it, and you’re going to get all that color and all that flavor,” he said.
Fruits are made into syrups for speed, cleanliness and consistency, Kosevich said, which is true at Eat Street Social and its companion tiki bar-within-a-bar Torpedo Room (which is on hiatus until fall) and other Twin Cities cocktail spots. Few classics call for flavored syrups outside the pomegranate-based grenadine, though the Clover Club — a piquant mix of gin, lemon juice, egg white and raspberry syrup — is a notable exception.
But slip that leftover raspberry syrup into, say, a traditional daiquiri recipe (Kosevich likes 2 ounces rum, ¾-ounce lime juice and ¾-ounce simple syrup) for an easy riff on an old standby.
“When you create new ingredients that fall into that formula you’re able to suddenly make mango daiquiris, raspberry daiquiris all with that same formula,” he said.
In recent years bartenders have turned to drinking vinegars, also known as shrubs, to inject fruity flavors into drinks. At Saffron, bar manager Robb Jones has recently featured a jammy strawberry rhubarb shrub in his Just a Fling cocktail with vodka, lemon juice, Aperol and Zucca. Jones prefers to use his shrubs as sweetening agents, still getting some citrus acidity while dialing down the lemon or lime juice a touch.
“It ends up being brighter in the cocktail and it’s a little bit easier to drink, more refreshing and not so rich,” the chef-turned-drink-maker said.
Shrubs are an easy way to extend the life span of near-expired fruits. Jones recommends starting with equal parts fruit, sugar and vinegar, and adjusting to taste. (For syrups, Kosevich suggests the same ratio of fruit, sugar and water, depending on its application). Champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar work best, Jones said. While shrubs can invigorate a cocktail, teetotalers can enjoy them simply with soda water.
Of course, savvy bartenders are finding even more ways to incorporate fruits on their menus. From the peach coulis in Eat Street Social’s brunch-time Bellini Fizz to a jalapeño (technically a fruit!) oleo saccharum Jones uses in his Pancho and Lefty — an upcoming smoky/vegetal drink-of-the-summer contender — imagination is the only limit.
But for those impromptu get-togethers or when summer’s lazy dog days set in, a simple garnish can be effective. Depending on who’s behind the stick, certain drinks — including the bramble and the sherry cobbler (a sunset sipper oft billed as the cosmo of its time) — can either come with its fruit muddled or as a garnish. An Eat Street Social Pimm’s Cup variation, dubbed the Adam Gorski in honor of their cocktailing comrade, skirts muddling for a more elaborate, aromatic accessory.
“We put the cucumber and the strawberry and orange slice at the top of the glass so when you put the drink up to your nose and take a sip, you’re getting a bouquet of summer aromas, but the drink is still clean,” Kosevich said.
These flavors (and scents) play well in warm weather. But there’s nothing wrong with reviving summertime tipples when there’s 10 inches of snow on the ground.
“Drinks sometimes have a responsibility to be more about remembering a different time,” Kosevich noted. “They have more of a nostalgia attached to them. Sometimes it’s good to have really light, refreshing or fruity drinks in the middle of winter, because in February I want to be taken back to a moment when it was 90 degrees and we were picking raspberries.”
After firing up the lawn mower (or snowblower), unwind with one of these fit-for-summer cocktails.
Michael Rietmulder writes about beer, spirits and nightlife.