It's time to reinvigorate your cocktail routine for warmer weather. How about an Aloe Pompier? Or would you rather cool down from a hot work week with a Kamikaze Popsicle? You say you want both? We'll never tell. These two recently published books will help you mix up new boozy refreshments for spring (and each title costs just a bit more than a single drink out on the town.)
Edible Cocktails From Garden to Glass by Natalie Bovis
Edible Cocktails From Garden to Glass is the latest book to capitalize on the recent surge of interest in making the cocktail hour more local and seasonal. I didn't have super-high expectations. Other books on the same topic have seemed unwieldy: all that effort (homemade simple syrup, herbs culled from your own garden, carefully cultivated strawberries) just for an evening tipple? But thanks to the enthusiasm of Natalie Bovis, I've never been more gung ho about weeding and planting.
While I was able to skip over sections about basic barware and glassware, I was pretty inspired by a chapter called "Planting Your Own Cocktail Garden." Were we getting too expert here? No. Natalie breaks it down, giving instructions for planting a garden full of cocktail ingredients on your balcony or windowsill, in a backyard, or community garden. She even offers foraging tips. The information is engaging and accessible, even when it's "expert" level advice about composting and rainwater collection. Once you've grown your goods (this could take awhile) you're ready to tackle the recipes. Some of them do require multiple steps. You must make the smoked sage syrup or the persimmon puree first, and that's an investment of time and energy. But once your larder is stocked, you're good to go, and Edible Cocktails offers dozens of recipes that allow you to show off your new skills and handcrafted ingredients. There's one set of recipes I have my eye on, and they're better suited for a girl with no garden to hoe. Carnivorous Cocktails (made with meat infusions) sound weird, wacky, and possibly wonderful. What would you think if I offered you a Bacon Cherry Creek Cocktail made with homemade bacon-washed bourbon and cherry-cinnamon syrup and a little ruby port?
Slushed!: More Than 150 Frozen, Boozy Treats for The Coolest Happy Hour Ever by Jessie Cross
Based on the title, I expected this book to be full of variations on the blended margarita. And I wasn't sure I'd be willing to pull the blender from the top shelf. But perhaps this book should have been called "Slushed!: More Than 150 Frozen Treats For Your Boozy Sweet Tooth." Because it's essentially a guide to how to get liquor into your favorite cool and creamy treats: popsicles, ice cream, frozen yogurt, semifreddo, sorbet, and granitas. This is not necessarily as simple as it sounds. Alcohol helps keep frozen treats soft and scoopable, but since alcohol won't freeze, it must be added in just the right amounts. Too much is not a good thing - it will keep ice cream from freezing properly.
Now that I know not to go crazy with the tequila—and I should know that by now, right?—I'm happy to have this book on hand for a summer full of boozy popsicles (frozen watermelon gimlets, anyone?), fancy palate cleansers (limoncello and mint sorbet), and cool tipsy desserts (dirty banana frozen yogurt, amaretto ice cream sandwiches, drunken sailor ice cream with spiced rum and candied orange peel). Be warned, you will need some tools—an ice cream maker, mixer, and blender as well as a candy thermometer and well-stocked pantry and bar. But the effort will be worth it once you're sitting on the porch on a hot night, a cool Frozen Long Island Ice Tea at the ready.
About the Author: Anne Zimmerman is a writer in San Francisco Her first book, An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher, was published in March 2011. You can read more about her work here or here. Follow her on Twitter at @poeticappetite.