The Garden Tipple: Meemaw’s Mojito

Meemaw's Mojito

We’re plumb tuckered out, Boozers. Having left the Big City for a little rest and relaxation, we now find ourselves settin’ on the front porch with Meemaw, gently perspiring in the sticky heat of a small-town August and in dire need of a Southern-style sweet tea. Meemaw would normally just break out the Luzianne tea bags, but she’s the epitome of Southern hospitality and indulges us with something just a bit more refined: a refreshingly minty green tea, of the type we might use in our DMV Iced Tea.

Of course, Meemaw likes a little nip now and then, and when the faint breeze is barely stirring the weeping willows that droop across the creek, she feels the need to unlock the liquor cabinet, wisely noting “Ain’t no point in waitin’ for sundown. It’s five o’clock somewhere, I ‘spect.”

We like to call this tasty concoction Meemaw’s Mojito, even though she’s far too modest to allow all that fuss. Mix it up and drink it down is her philosophy. We’d be well advised to follow her wisdom.

Meemaw’s Mojito

Mint has overtaken the garden now, entangling itself with the cucumbers and tomatoes and filling the air with its heady scent. We like to make a lemony simple syrup just to intensify the flavors of the mint, and then add a strong tot of rum to give the tea a real bite. 

Generous handful of fresh clean mint leaves

2+ tablespoons lemon simple syrup (recipe below)

2 ounces rum (we like our local Lyon Distilling Company Rum)

Chilled green tea (try something with undertones of lemongrass and mint)

Fresh stalk of lemongrass (optional)

Mint sprig, for garnish

to make the lemon simple syrup: Combine 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice. 1/2 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat and then let simmer gently for about 30 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half and thickened. Cool completely; can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

To make Meemaw’s Mojito: Place mint leaves and lemon simple syrup in the bottom of a tall glass and crush the mint leaves lightly. Add the rum and then top with plenty of ice and chilled green tea. Stir briskly — with a fresh stalk of lemongrass if you have it, which adds another spicy-citrus note to the drink — and then garnish with more mint.

 

 

The Garden Tipple: DMV Iced Tea

DMV Iced Tea

We’re feeling sweet, dear Boozers. Here in the DMV — and for the uninitiated, we’re referring to the DC-Maryland-Virginia vortex, not the Department of Motor Vehicles — we straddle, sometimes uncomfortably, that line that divides the North and the South. We have a certain Northern can-do entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a Southern take-your-time-and-do-it-right mentality which often leads to short bursts of frantic activity followed by long hours of intense reflection.

What we do like is our sweet tea on a hot summer day, but we tend to enjoy it half-and-half style, like the rest of our existence: not too sweet, not too plain. When presented with that perennial summer cocktail, the Long Island Iced Tea, we tut-tut at its lack of actual tea and emphasis on “more is more”. So we’ve created the DMV Iced Tea, a blend of energizing teas infused with fresh peaches and local brandy — a perfect sipper for those last days of summer lounging in the city parks dreaming of beach days gone by.

DMV Iced Tea

A combination of green tea and Earl Grey-infused vodka provide the tea base here, and, as it’s peach season here in the Almost South, we’re enjoying every juicy moment. A soupçon of lavender honey is all that’s needed to heighten the just-picked flavor of the peaches — any more would turn this into a Deep South Iced Tea.

4 ounces Fresh Peach Green Tea (see below)
1 ounce brandy (we like to use Catoctin Creek’s Peach Brandy, but DMV perennial favorites like Courvoisier and Hennessey will certainly do the trick)
1 ounce Earl Grey-infused vodka (recipe here)
fresh sliced peaches for garnish

Put a chunk or two of the tea-soaked peaches from the Fresh Peach Green Tea in the bottom of a tall glass. Add several ice cubes, then top with the chilled tea, brandy, and vodka. Stir briskly and garnish with a fresh peach slice — or two.

to make the Fresh Peach Green Tea:
1/2 cup fresh peaches, roughly chopped
4 cups freshly brewed green tea (we like a minty variety like Tazo Zen)
2 tablespoons lavender honey

Put the peaches in a pitcher and muddle lightly, then add green tea and honey. Stir well, then refrigerate for at least two hours or until well-chilled. Can be kept refrigerated for three or four days.

The Garden Tipple: Pickled Summer Martini

Pickled Martini

We’re a bit pickled, Boozers. A bumper crop of adorable Mexican Sour Gherkins in the cocktail garden left us somewhat overwhelmed, until we decided to just pickle the little darlings. And, to make it a bit more fun, we pickled them in tequila, which they liked just fine, thank you very much, providing us with two excellent ingredients for a perfectly summery martini: a pickled cucumber garnish and a tasty brine to stand in for the vermouth.

The trick to a really good martini is to make sure that every ingredient is really cold — from the liquor to the garnish to the glass itself — and there’s kind of nothing more luscious on a sticky summer evening when you’ve dragged yourself home from work than to be presented with a perfectly chilled cocktail just as you open the front door, calling out “Lucy, I’m home!” Our Pickled Summer Martini will hit that spot.

Pickled Summer Martini

Some people like a gin martini, some like vodka, so the liquor you use here is really up to you. We chose to use our favorite Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, which is rye-based, because we like its herbaceous bite, but we can enjoy it equally well with the smooth richness of Boyd & Blair’s Potato Vodka. Check out your local distilleries and give them some love.

2 ounces chilled gin or vodka

1 ounce fresh cucumber juice (recipe below – you’ll need a cucumber)

a few drops of pickle brine, preferably from our Tequila-Pickled Gherkins  (you could also substitute brine from a jar of cornichons)

Several pickled gherkins or cornichons, for garnish

First, make the cucumber juice. Take a fresh peeled cucumber, cut into chunks, and put it in a blender with a tablespoon or two of water. Blend on high until liquefied, then strain. Discard pulp and chill the remaining liquid thoroughly, at least 30 minutes.

Then, take a martini glass and rinse the outside of it lightly in cold water, shaking off the excess. Then add a few drops of pickle brine to the glass and coat the glass well with the brine, pouring off any excess. Put a few pickled gherkins on a cocktail skewer and place in the glass, then put the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes. Chilling the garnish this way helps keep that martini really cold when you serve it.

When the cucumber juice and martini glass with the garnish are sufficiently chilled, pour the cucumber juice and gin or vodka into a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake vigorously, then strain into the chilled martini glass with garnish. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

The Garden Tipple: Mary’s Cherry

Mary's Cherry

Get your minds out of the gutter, Boozers. It’s cherry tomato season and the little darlings are exploding in the garden these days, meaning that we are overrun with little red — and pink, and yellow — globules of goodness. So we decided that we needed a Bloody Mary.

While you can purchase Bloody Mary mixer in the store — and some of it can be quite tasty — it’s also a snap to make, especially this time of year when the tomato crop is obscene in its abundance. Cherry tomatoes make for a nice base, both sweet and tart at once, rather like our friend Mary. We’ve upped the ante on our version, Mary’s Cherry, by also marinating a handful of cherry tomatoes in vodka, which makes for a rather potent brunch cocktail. Collect the car keys at the door and settle in.

Mary’s Cherry

A classic Bloody Mary requires horseradish and Worcestershire Sauce to give it some kick, but don’t neglect other flavors to amp it up. Here in the mid-Atlantic, it’s popular to add Old Bay Seasoning to the mix, but curry powder, smoked paprika, ramps, and pickled hot peppers are other ingredients that you might try out to customize the flavor to your own tastebuds.

3 ounces Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix (recipe here)

2 ounces vodka (we like Boyd & Blair – you can also use the vodka from the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes)

4 Drunken Cherry Tomatoes (recipe here)

Cucumber and fresh parsley for garnish (optional — use whatever you like)

Place the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes in the bottom of a tall glass and muddle lightly to break the skins. Add a few ice cubes, then the vodka and Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix. Stir well and garnish. Serve immediately.

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.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 592 other followers