The Garden Tipple: Sugarbaby Daiquiri

Sugarbaby Daiquiri

We’re parched, Boozers. Gardening is hard work, and we’ve done enough tilling, weeding, watering, and harvesting in the height of summer to last a lifetime — and it’s not even August. The air-conditioned comfort of the grocery store’s produce section begins to look mighty good when you’re covered in sweat and compost while you battle aphids and whatever just chewed up half your tomatoes during the night. But then the sugarbabies arrived and things started to look up.

A Sugar Baby is a common variety of miniature watermelon, often found in farmers markets and grocery stores under the moniker “personal watermelon”. They are small, and sweet, and utterly hydrating on a hot summer day, especially when rum is involved. We don’t usually go in for frozen drinks, and we generally like our daiquiris Hemingway-style, but sometimes an adult slurpee is really the only way to go when the mercury is on the rise. Slurp it up and drink it down.

Sugarbaby Daiquiri

Most frozen drinks are made with ice cubes, but we turn our noses up at that when we have watermelon available. As you might imagine, watermelon is mostly water and so, when cut into cubes, they freeze perfectly. They also freeze fairly quickly, so you’ll be ready to whip up your daiquiris within a couple of hours of freezing.

One Sugar Baby watermelon, preferably seedless, cut into chunks

2 ounces rum, preferably a lighter variety such as silver or gold (we used Mount Gay this time)

1 ounce hibiscus liqueur (we used Don Ciccio & Figli; if you don’t have that available to you, use St. Germain elderflower liqueur to add a floral note, or even Maraschino liqueur, which is generally used in traditional daiquiris)

1 fresh lime

Place the watermelon chunks into a plastic Ziploc bag and freeze until solid, about an hour or two. To make a good-sized daiquiri, place one cup of frozen watermelon chunks in a blender with the rum, liqueur, and the juice of half a lime. Blend on high for a few seconds — it won’t take long to break down the cubes and you want them to maintain a perfectly drinkable frozen purée. Serve immediately.

The Garden Tipple: Fresh Currant Cobbler

 

Fresh Currant Cobbler

We’re feeling jaunty, Boozers. A slight break in humidity has brought on a perfect imitation of a glorious New England summer day and a batch of fresh currants has only intensified the joy. There is something old-fashioned and charming about fresh currants, a fruity throwback to a bygone era, which brought us, of course, to thinking about the pleasures of sherry.

We know, you thought we had turned to baking when you saw that today’s tipple was called a Fresh Currant Cobbler… but no. A cocktail known as a Sherry Cobbler was once all the rage, perhaps 150 years ago, an agreeable combination of sherry, sugar, a bit of fruit, and ice. Some aficionados say a straw is necessary as well, so we like to go with tradition. It’s extraordinarily refreshing on a pleasantly warm July evening as you sit at an outdoor table taking in the sights and sounds of a town just as the sun edges past the yardarm, and you’ll feel a bit like donning a seersucker suit and a Panama hat, just to get the full effect. Go find your inner dandy.

Fresh Currant Cobbler

People tend to be a bit afraid of sherry, but don’t be judgmental simply because it’s what Great-Grandmama Stella drank out of a tiny crystal glass just before the dinner gong sounded. Ranging from dry to sweet in flavor, sherry is basically aged wine with a bit of a kick. We like to make this cobbler with a slightly sweet Amontillado, which contrasts nicely against the tartness of the fresh currants, but it could work with a Manzanilla as well.

4 ounces chilled Amontillado sherry

1/2 a fresh orange

1 ounce Fresh Currant Syrup with berries

Frozen currants on the stem (optional, but a fun garnish — just throw a stemful of fresh currants into the freezer for an hour before serving)

Put sherry in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice, then squeeze the orange into it thoroughly. Shake well. Put the Fresh Currant Syrup into the bottom of a tall glass, then pour the contents of the cocktail shaker over it. Garnish with fresh frozen currants and serve immediately — with a straw, of course.

 

 

The Garden Tipple: Lady Luck

Lady Luck

We’re feeling lucky, Boozers. Some days you just grab life by the horns and you shake the hell out of it, and, at the end of it all, you pour yourself a great big celebratory drink and everything feels right with the world.

Of course, you have no idea what will happen tomorrow, but somehow it just doesn’t matter when you’re walking barefoot through an early summer evening, the air slightly thick with humidity and fat bumblebees drowsily buzzing through tall stalks of magenta phlox. The cares of the world feel far away when luck is on your side, whether you’re rolling the dice in a smoky backroom or playing fast and loose in affairs of the heart, so it’s better not to think too hard about the consequences. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Lady Luck

We’re mildly obsessed with cherries this time of year, piled seductively at the market or winking at us insouciantly from the branches of their mother tree. Our favorite way to capture their summery sweetness is in our Wicked Cherry Syrup, which we bring together with lightly tart grapefruit juice for a new riff on the classic Sea Breeze cocktail.

2 ounces chilled vodka (we enjoy Boyd & Blair)

2 ounces chilled grapefruit juice (we prefer mildly sweet pink grapefruit juice here)

1.5 ounces Wicked Cherry Syrup

fresh cherries for garnish

Put first three ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini or cosmo glass, then garnish with fresh cherries.

The Garden Tipple: Watermelon Moonshine Shooter

Watermelon Moonshine Shooter

We’re celebrating independence, Boozers. Some days, the weight of responsibility can be crushing, as the gimlet-eyed gaze of a soulless COO leaves you wondering if you can survive another day in corporate America. And then you push through those gleaming glass doors into the hot sunshine of a late summer afternoon and you raise your arms to the clear blue sky and you scream, “I’m mad as hell — and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”

Or you just go to the corner and buy a bottle of moonshine.

Because at least you’ve got a three-day weekend ahead of you, and a hometown parade, and fireworks exploding in the darkness. And good friends who will share a shot — or two — and remind you that there’s always another way to get to the finish line. Grab your independence and run with it.

Watermelon Moonshine Shooter

Watermelon are a dime a dozen this time of year, whether in the garden or the farmers market, and, as you can imagine, they make a tasty drink on a hot day. We like to use a white whiskey — also known as moonshine — but it would be equally good with tequila.

1 cup fresh watermelon chunks

4 ounces white whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, but support your local distillery)

1 fresh lime

a few dashes of citrus bitters (optional, but we like Hella Citrus)

Kosher salt

Put watermelon and whiskey into a blender and liquify. Strain the liquid, then squeeze fresh lime juice into it and add a few drops of bitters. Mix well and let chill for an hour. Stir again before pouring into shot glasses, and sprinkle a few grains of salt over the top before drinking it down.

 

 

The Garden Tipple: Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Midsummer Night's Beer Punch

We have had a most rare vision, dear Boozers. Sunlight slanting low and golden across quiet orderly rows of tomatoes, beans, and peppers, suddenly distorted by the higgledy-piggledy madness of raspberry canes, climbing every which way in tangled curls of green and crimson. Warmed by the late-day sunshine, the scent is intoxicating and you find your fingers and lips stained with their sweetness. Such is a midsummer night, when inhibitions are thrown out into the soft breeze and a magical stillness settles into a contented soul.

Midsummer is an important time in many cultures, as the longest day of the year arrives with great fanfare, only to be immediately followed by gradually shortening days that herald the inevitable coming of winter. Fueled by a sense of urgency, we feel the need to gather our friends and dance with abandon in the open air, surrounded by barbecues and beer cans as we chase our dreams through the shadows. We like to celebrate such folly with our Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch, a heady blend of raspberry-infused gin, limoncello-spiked lemonade, and crisp summer ale. Consider yourself forewarned: though she be but little, she is fierce.

Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Here in the U.S., we tend to come just a bit late to the party by celebrating midsummer on the Fourth of July, and this punch is just right for a crowd. The trick is to try to keep everything well-chilled until just before serving — go rustic by mixing the lemonade and gin together in a large mason jar, then add a couple of cold beers to the jar as your guests begin to arrive. To keep it extra cold, try throwing in a few beer cubes.

2 cups chilled lemonade with 3/4 cup limoncello added (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli limoncello)

1 cup chilled gin infused with raspberries and lemongrass (recipe here)

3 chilled beers (we used a summery ale by our local DC Brau)

Several slices of fresh orange and lemon

Using a punch bowl or a large mason jar, add all ingredients and stir together well. Serve immediately and replenish as necessary. Garnish with fresh lemongrass stalks if you have it.

 

The Garden Tipple: Naughty Miss Parsley

Naughty Miss Parsley

We’ve gone green, Boozers. It’s still just early summer and while we wait for the tomatoes to reach their full potential, we’re overrun with parsley, that riotous partygirl of the summer garden. Playful and coy with her head of green curls, Miss Parsley loves to be the center of attention as the garden party gets started, although she starts to flag once the serious heat sets in, wilting quietly in a corner, dreaming of her misspent youth.

Naughty Miss Parsley does tend to be highly prolific, and we are often at a loss to know what to do with such abundance — there’s only so much pistou really needed in any household. So we’ve gone and named a cocktail in her honor, filled with a glorious brilliant green parsley juice and just enough vodka to get the party started. Pace yourself, Miss Parsley, the night is young.

Naughty Miss Parsley

Parsley juice does sound like some awful hippie concoction that must be drunk during the waning moon while living in a commune tucked away in the rolling countryside of the Pacific Northwest, but it actually has a bright earthy flavor that somehow tastes like distilled summer in a glass. A snap to make, it pairs well with both vodka and gin, and can be a nice addition to a fresh Bloody Mary.

3 ounces fresh parsley juice (recipe here)

1.5 ounces vodka (we actually used Square One Cucumber Vodka this time, which added another fresh note to this cocktail)

1/2 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur

1 to 2 teaspoons of light agave nectar, to your taste

wedge of fresh lime

chilled club soda (optional)

Put first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Pour all contents into a tall glass and squeeze the lime over it. Can be served as is or topped off with an ounce of chilled club soda.

 

The Garden Tipple: Cantaloupe Cantina Cooler

Cantaloupe Cantina

It’s tequila time, Boozers. After a long week slogging away in a grown-up world of trading gossip by the water cooler, listening to the C-suite droning away about budgetary propriety, and spending yet another morning commute stuck in a tunnel on a disabled subway car, you’ve earned every precious drop.

If your paycheck doesn’t seem to be commensurate with the amount of overtime you put in every week, then you’re probably looking for ways to stretch your cocktail budget. We understand this all too well, so our advice is to spend as much as you can afford on a good bottle of tequila (we like Avión Silver, which is smooth and herbaceous with a pleasant kick, yet reasonably priced) and then head to the farmers market at the end of the day. Why? Because this is the time when farmers try to lighten their load by actually giving away the produce they haven’t sold yet.

We picked up two rather overlarge cantaloupes this way this week and immediately thought of making cantaloupe juice, an embarrassingly easy little job. Until our summer cocktail garden fills in, we’ve been rejoicing in the beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables to be found at the farmers market, where the farmers have a jump on the rest of us by growing their products in greenhouses during the cooler spring months. The cantaloupes right now have that fresh early summer brightness that matches just about perfectly with tequila.

So finish up that really important report for the boss, then hit the farmers’ line around 5 to see what you can score, without having to resort to dumpster diving. You deserve a drink.

Cantaloupe Cantina Cooler

We said it was embarrassingly easy to make cantaloupe juice and we weren’t kidding. Scoop out the flesh of a ripe cantaloupe and throw it into a blender. Blend on high until liquified, then strain through a coffee filter until you have a beautiful clear liquid. At this point, we like to add the juice of one fresh lime and about 2 teaspoons of light agave nectar. Can be stored for up to two days in the refrigerator, but best if used immediately.

3 ounces fresh cantaloupe juice

1.5 ounces tequila

1 ounce prickly pear liqueur (we love this, especially from our local maker Don Ciccio & Figli, and it adds something special to tequila, but go ahead and use triple sec if you can’t find prickly pear liqueur at your liquor store)

Chilled club soda

2 wedges of lime

Put first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker and stir well, then pour over a tall glass filled with ice. Squeeze one wedge of lime into the drink, then garnish with an additional wedge of lime.

 

The Garden Tipple: Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We’re full of vim and vinegar this week, dear Boozers. It’s Negroni Week, when our favorite magazine teams up with our favorite Italian liqueur to encourage local watering holes to mix up negroni cocktails for charity. A classic negroni is simple and elegant with just three ingredients: gin, Campari, and vermouth, generally served with a twist of orange. What’s nice about it is that while it is just perfect as it is, it’s also easy to riff off of it for fun new variations.

And so we went out to the farmers market and picked up a whole lot of fresh early summer strawberries, since our own cocktail garden’s strawberry plants aren’t yet at peak production, and made a beautiful and slightly tart strawberry-basil drinking vinegar. A drinking vinegar serves much the same purpose as a bitter liqueur like Campari, working as an excellent digestive agent when mixed with club soda. But, hell, we just like it anyway, especially when mixed up in a cocktail. So go out and have a negroni for charity, then come home and have a Strawberry Vinegar Negroni with friends.

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We love the flavor of Campari and didn’t want to replace it entirely with the Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar, so we chose to create a Campari candied orange garnish, which is as simple as putting a 1/2 cup of Campari, 1/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, and some fresh orange slices in a small saucepan and simmering over low heat until all that’s left is a really thick syrup coating the orange slices. Remove to a baking rack and let cool completely.

1 ounce gin (support your local distillery — we like Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 ounce Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar

chilled club soda

candied Campari orange slice for garnish (you can also just marinate orange slices in Campari for a couple of hours as an alternative garnish)

Put first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir vigorously. Pour into a glass with fresh ice, top with chilled club soda, and stir again. Garnish with candied Campari orange slice.

 

 

The Garden Tipple: Iced Amalfi Americano

Iced Amalfi Americano

We’re preparing for deprivation, Boozers. Apparently there’s a coffee shortage looming, courtesy of drought and disease, so we feel the need to stock up while we can. With the temperatures rising, we began to crave Thai Iced Coffee, but a charming little Cinnamon Basil plant jauntily growing in the windowbox made us consider a more Mediterranean twist — logically bringing us to our friends at Don Ciccio & Figli and their tasty little Italian liqueur known as Concerto, brimming with the flavors of the Amalfi coast.

This summer, as we explore cocktails from the garden, we’re bringing you a Garden Tipple each week, with today’s offering, the Iced Amalfi Americano, featuring one of our favorite tricks: the cocktail cube. A few weeks back, we picked up a Cinnamon Basil plant from the local home improvement store for a couple of bucks, and we’re obsessed with its spicy cinnamon flavor, which adds a zingy essence when chopped up and added to an ice cube. As the cube melts into your drink, the flavors subtly shift and deepen — the easiest way to add new layers to what could be an otherwise ordinary drink. Try it with fresh mint for a mojito, thyme for a gin-and-lemonade, and even garlic chives for an amped-up Bloody Mary.

Iced Amalfi Americano

A confection made from barley and espresso, Concerto is just about perfection when used in a coffee-based cocktail, but another coffee-based liqueur will do just as well, such as a traditional Kahlua or Patron XO Cafe.

3 ounces cold-brewed coffee with a pinch of dried cardamom

1.5 ounces espresso-based liqueur

2 ounces coconut milk half-n-half (we like So Delicious; you can use regular half-n-half)

1 ounce unaged whiskey (this is optional, but we strongly suggest it; we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit)

4 cinnamon basil ice cubes

We like to make sure that every element of this cocktail is well-chilled, so it’s nice to put together some of the elements in advance and put them back in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or so before serving — or mix up enough for four or five drinks and leave it in the refrigerator for up to a week, ready to drink when you are.

First, make the cubes. You’ll need several clean cinnamon basil leaves (other varieties of basil work well also, such as Thai basil), cut into a fine chiffonade. Put the basil leaves and about half a cup of water into a blender and blend on high until the leaves are pulverized and the water is green. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid.

Next, mix together the coffee and espresso liqueur and put in the refrigerator to chill, then mix together the half-n-half and the unaged whiskey and put that into the refrigerator to chill.

To assemble the drink: Pour the chilled half-n-half mixture into the bottom of a tall glass. Add several of the basil cubes and then pour the coffee mixture into the glass. Enjoy.

 

The Friday Tipple: Fresh Strawberry Ale

Fresh Strawberry Ale

Summer breezes are blowing, Boozers. With Memorial Day just around the corner and farmers markets bursting at the seams with spring fruit, we’re flushed with that heady anticipation of early summer delights, before the humidity settles in to dampen our enthusiasm. “Grab it while it lasts” is our mantra.

For the next few months, we’ll be offering up a series of cocktail recipes we like to call Good Booze in the Garden, and today we’re giving you a bit of a preview. Strawberries are growing in our cocktail garden right now, sweet little morsels of sunshine beckoning to us with their insouciant freshness. Recently, we noticed an advertisement for a commercial brand of strawberry ale and thought how nice it would be if our own favorite local brews had a bit of a strawberry twist. It was only a tiny little leap for us to realize that we had everything we needed for our own Fresh Strawberry Ale — literally in our own backyard.

It’s embarrassingly simple, but let that be our little secret. Enjoy.

Fresh Strawberry Ale

You don’t have to grow your own strawberries to make this treat — pick them up at the farmers market, steal them from your neighbor’s garden, visit a pick-your-own farm, or just get them at the grocery store. However, we strongly advise that you procure locally-grown strawberries simply because they will have the sweetest and freshest flavor now that they are in season.

1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh strawberries

1 chilled 12-ounce beer of your choice (support your local brewer — we used DC Brau’s The Public, a citrusy pale ale which complements the strawberries nicely)

Yes, that’s it.

Place strawberries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle with a wooden spoon until the juice begins to run out — they shouldn’t be pulverized, but slightly mashed. Pour in the beer and stir gently. Let sit for a few minutes, then strain into a glass.

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