A few weeks ago I found myself with a bushel of basil—I was in over my head with bunches of the herb and needed to use them up asap. After making the prerequisite pestos, I ventured into pizza and even a basil and lime sorbet, which got me thinking. Those two flavors are perfect summer partners—refreshing and full of flavor—so they can only get better with the addition of a little booze, right?
'drinking in season' on Serious Eats
Ripe, almost squishy peaches work great for this cocktail, since the peaches will be muddled anyway and you're looking to get as much peach juice as possible.
Lately it seems like I keep hearing about shrubs. I'm not talking about the bushes that line your front yard—this is way better. The shrub that I'm referencing is a vinegary syrup used as a way preserve fruit made with three ingredients: fruit, sugar, and vinegar.
Created by Rob Gourlay at the Esquire Tavern in San Antonio, this cocktail takes a minimum amount of effort to produce maximum flavor—something we can all appreciate when the heat gets oppressive. I used black raspberries, red raspberries, and blueberries, but you can use any combination you like.
When the markets are overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables and full of vibrant colors this time of year, I'm always drawn to the deep, dark hue of blackberries. They feel like the mysterious, moody fruit in a gang of do-gooders.
Pucker up, it's sour cherry season! These elusive cherries can usually be found for a weeks in late June and early July at farm stands and farmers' markets—if you see them, grab a box. These tart, almost transparent cherries make great desserts, preserves, and of course, cocktails.
My grilling skills may be a little rusty, but I can certainly bring a pitcher full of tasty summer drinks to the party.
There is something about the understated flavor of cucumber that's instantly calming. It has just enough oomph to awaken your senses. That cool, refreshing flavor pairs incredibly well with lime and Hendrick's gin.
I have a rule when it comes to strawberries—I wait to buy them until they make their way to the farmers' market. Nothing compares to that first day when you see them, or more accurately, smell them. But the other day when I was in my local grocery, I smelled that scent of real, ripe, flavorful berries, then examined the berries to make sure I wasn't going crazy. I broke my rule. I just couldn't resist them. I immediately ate one as soon as I left, hoping that my nose didn't deceive me—the berry was flavorful. Of course I started plotting out what to do with my preseason score.
Since tea was going to be the star of this cocktail, I want to go with something that had a bit of complexity. I chose smoky Lapsang Souchong as my base ingredient. One whiff of this tea and there's no question what it will taste like: smoky, earthy, and intense. But that aggressive flavor can be shifted a bit when combined with other ingredients in a cocktail.
Since rhubarb is on the tart side, it's often paired with sweet, summery fruits like strawberry or raspberry, but one of my favorite rhubarb combos is rhubarb and ginger—especially in a light, refreshing cocktail.
A few weeks ago a sign appeared at our local farmers' market. It read, "Ramps are coming next week!" The joy was palpable. As people walked by and read it, you could hear the excitement in their voices. All that for a little leafy wild onion. Of course, ramps aren't just any regular garlicky vegetable. They're the first new thing we've had at the market in months; a sign that spring is really here.
This nontraditional fresh-and-light sangria features rosé instead of red wine, paired with a collection of invigorating citrus like Sumo oranges, kumquats, and lemons. Another layer of flavor is added by infusing the simple syrup with ginger for a subtle boost.
Somehow, flavored beers like pumpkin ale or raspberry beer seem more appropriate for the transitional seasons. With warm weather coming sooner than any of us anticipated, we've got a head start on rhubarb, as well as an early debut to one of my favorite warm weather activities, outdoor drinking. Sometimes there's no better way to relax than sitting at a table, soaking up the sun with a beer in hand.
Creating cocktails is all about experimenting and doing a little digging, especially when we're in between seasons like we are now. Without an abundance of new, exciting fruit and veggies popping up at the market each week, things can start to feel a little humdrum. But your drinks needn't suffer—during times like these, lean on fresh herbs and perhaps a spice or two to jazz up your libations.
Because I'm often so eager to see rhubarb, I think it's only fair to let the flavor shine. A simple squeeze of lime paired with gin and seltzer provide a bright, slightly herbal base to let the rhubarb flavor come forward. The result is a light, effervescent cocktail that's the perfect way to usher in the beginning of a bountiful season.
As winter rolls on and we ease into March I find myself itching for a tropical getaway. It doesn't have to be super fancy, just warm weather, some water to dip my toe in and a place to set my cocktail. Unfortunately the closest I'm going to get to that is my imagination and a good drink. But rest assured, with the right ingredients, a tropical getaway is only a few sips away.