Sometimes it’s nice just to have a good refreshing cocktail, especially in the dog days of summer. While it’s never a good idea to overindulge, sipping a lively concoction of your favorite spirit and mixers can be a great way to lead into an evening meal or to wind down after your day of work. But boy am I tired of the same old thing – I’d like to be enjoying new tastes and ideas. Good thing it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy a cocktail from the garden.
An idea that will grow on you
What? Yes, you read that correctly – from the garden! With a bountiful harvest of herbs, fruits, and vegetables at hand there is a world of unusual drinks that can be made in summer. Whether you have a garden of your own, visit your neighborhood farmer’s market, or simply shop the organic section of your local grocery, you can pick up the fresh items that will give your summer cocktail a healthy feel.
Consider what often winds up in a Bloody Mary- vegetable juice and garnishes like olives, celery, green beans, even shrimp, but now think about lighter and fresher ingredients that add pizazz to the body of a regular cocktail.
It’s time to start enjoying new recipes for summer cocktails that have a little bonus and are beautiful too. No doubt that the creators of some popular beverages were inspired by their gardens and the plentiful foods grown in their area.
A harvest of possibilities
Let’s start by looking at a twist on a classic. Horse racing fans are keenly aware of the Mint Julep famously served at the Kentucky Derby. It’s a southern favorite that has mass appeal. But as we said, some people are inspired by nature’s gifts and like to make use of fresh ingredients. The Blackberry Mint Julep does just that. For this you muddle and strain blackberries and mint leaves, add sugar and bourbon and pour over ice. Garnish it with a blackberry and mint leaf and you have a chiller that will certainly have you chomping at the bit for more. That little extra fruit provides a sweet bonus.
If you’re more of a tequila fan and really crave a taste of summer, consider Bobby Flay’s Watermelon Tequila Cocktail. Your day isn’t complete until you’ve combined the sweetness of fresh, strained watermelon juice mixed with silver tequila. Add sugar syrup and blueberries along with mint and fresh lime juice and you’ve created a cocktail that’s light and refreshing.
Looking for more in your garden cocktail? A couple of New York chefs and their friend really hit the jackpot when they concocted the Porch Crawler. Created with several items from a rooftop garden, they muddled pitted cherries, mint leaves, and chiles. Then they topped with ice, rum, lemon juice and simple syrup and strained it into a glass. Club soda was poured in and the glass garnished with cherries and mint. I’ll bet they had as much fun creating it as they did drinking it.
Expanding the ingredient list
Some specialty cocktails call not only for “harvesting” fresh, healthy fruits and herbs but also for discovering less widely used spirits. Amp up the flavor and wow your guests with these drinks that call for Pisco, a white Peruvian Brandy made with mescal grapes or Lillett, an aromatized wine that is 85% Bordeaux region wines and 15% macerated liqueurs (mostly citrus).
There’s The Tabernacle Crush with muddled fresh peaches, basil leaves, and lemon juice that is strained, then stirred with Gin, Lillett, and simple syrup. You add ice and garnish with basil.
Cholo Fresco was created by Hans Hilbirg of “El Pisquirito” in Peru. For this one you’d muddle fresh mint leaves with sugar and lime juice and then strain into an ice-filled shaker. Add Pisco, melon liqueur, and cucumber juice. Shake and stir into a chilled glass. Try adding your own garnish of a slice of cucumber and a piece of honeydew melon.
You’ll notice most “garden” inspired cocktails require muddling. If you’ve never done it, this very brief video demonstrates the proper technique: http://www.marthastewart.com/976907/how-muddle-herbs-and-fruit
What ideas do you have for adding some produce to your adult beverage? Sweet wine with muddled strawberries, club soda, and fresh basil or perhaps Vodka with ginger liqueur and mint? Try being inspired by what you see in the market and experiment with your spirit of choice – who knows, you may wind up creating a summer sensation.
Summer fresh is easy
If you don’t have the time or inclination to mix up one of these delicious drinks, visit an Atlanta Bread location that has bar service and add a healthy salad, sandwich, or other dish from our menu and really sink your teeth into garden fresh tastes.