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.

The Friday Tipple: Michigan Cherry Beer

Michigan Cherry Beer

We’re feeling fruity, Boozers. Now firmly ensconced in the heart of summer, we find ourselves surrounded on all sides by the freshest of fruits, bursting with their warm juicy goodness. On a hot summer day, lazily swinging in the backyard hammock, there’s nothing we like more than a cold beer laced with the flavors of summer.

Last year we passed a pleasant week or so on the shores of Lake Michigan in the charming hamlet of St. Joseph – St. Joe’s to those in the know – and fell in love with a tasty little Cherry Beer Cocktail which turned out to be little more than a standard PBR laced with maraschino cherry juice straight out of the jar. Just goes to prove that it doesn’t take much to create heaven on earth.

We decided to take this one step further in making our own Michigan Cherry Beer, and, with all due modesty, have heard this described as “Michigan summer in a pint glass” by natives of the Mitten State. We agree. Mix it up wherever you are and dream of sitting lakeside beneath the pine trees.

Michigan Cherry Beer

Chill a light summery lager or ale while you whip up the Whiskey Cherry Syrup that flavors this delicious cocktail. As always, we encourage sourcing ingredients that are local to wherever you are at the moment – this is especially fun when you are on vacation; if you can’t get out of town, you might create a vacation atmosphere by finding beer and whiskey local to the place where you wish you were. Dream on.

1/2 cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1 cup whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)
1 cup cane sugar
Cold beer (we used the citrusy Shift Pale Lager this time)

Put the cherries, whiskey, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and stir well. Bring up to a rolling simmer then lower heat and allow to simmer gently until liquid reduces by about a third and has a glossy syrupy texture (about 30 minutes). Remove from heat and cool completely; can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Chill a tall glass then spoon about two tablespoons of the Whiskey Cherry Syrup into the bottom of the glass, being sure to include a few cherries. Fill the rest of the glass with chilled beer and stir gently with a bar spoon. Garnish with a fresh cherry and enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Picnic Pops

Picnic Pop

Picnic season is upon us, dear Boozers. We’ve unpacked our summer whites, dusted off the croquet set, and stacked the barbecue with fresh charcoal. The blissful moment of pleine air dining has arrived, heralded by the droning of cicadas and brightly-colored piles of fresh-picked produce at the farmer’s market. Time for a popsicle.

The idea of a cocktail-based popsicle is hardly new, but is always worth exploring. With fresh rhubarb in season and the bright taste of gin on our tongues, we naturally jumped at any excuse to make Picnic Pops – in this case, Strawberry-Rhubarb Gin Pops, a refreshing celebration of that fleeting moment when spring becomes summer. Grab it.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Gin Pops

Freezing alcohol can be a bit tricky – some recipes recommend adding gelatin to help firm up the liquid, but a heavy hand can result in something more akin to a frozen Jell-O shot, which might be perfectly tasty but is not, of course, really a popsicle. For our Picnic Pops, we firmed up our liquid base with strawberry jam, as the pectin in the jam helps provide a stabilizing agent.

1 cup fresh chopped rhubarb stems

1.5 cups water

1 cup sugar

2-inch piece of fresh lemon peel

3 heaping tablespoons strawberry jam

1/4 cup gin (we like Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin or Green Hat Spring/Summer Seasonal Gin)

fresh mint leaves

4-ounce wax-lined paper cups

popsicle sticks or straws cut into 5-inch lengths

Combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and let simmer until liquid is reduced and slightly thickened and rhubarb is completely soft. Let cool for ten minutes, mash the rhubarb in the liquid, and then strain. Add strawberry jam and mix thoroughly, allowing to cool to room temperature. Add gin and stir to mix. Place a small mint leaf into the bottoms of several paper cups, then fill each cup about halfway with strawberry-rhubarb liquid. Place cups into the freezer for about 45 minutes. If the liquid has started to freeze up well, then put a popsicle stick or straw in the center of each (be careful to not push all the way to the bottom of the cup) – if the liquid has not yet firmed up enough to hold the stick steady, then cover each cup with a small square of aluminum foil and poke the stick through the center of the foil and push into the cup. Allow to freeze overnight and peel off the paper cup to serve. Makes about 6 pops.

Note: If you make these with straws, it’s also fun to serve as a Slurpee-style palate cleanser – just leave the cups intact and serve as is – but watch out for brain freeze.

The Friday Tipple: Banana River Sunset

Summer is ebbing away, dear Boozers. The air is no longer thick with humidity and cool breezes waft through the windows at night. Except, of course, if you’re in Florida, the land of the endless summer (even winter there is like summer in, say, Minnesota), where it’s a time-honored tradition to train the little kiddies in the art of making their hard-working parents a tasty little libation to enjoy as they watch the sunset.

In the old days, this concoction was likely a Tequila Sunrise, as Floridians like their citrus liberally laced with alcohol, but it seems somehow backwards to drink a sunrise-themed drink at the end of the day. Hence, the Banana River Sunset, a cocktail that pays homage to last rays of the day as they stretch out across one of the Sunshine State’s prettiest lagoons, home to manatees and dolphins and the occasional ‘gator. It’s a drink that’s lightly bitter at the start with a sweet finish, a perfect way to end the day in the subtropics — or Minnesota. Dive in.

Banana River Sunset

This drink packs a lot of citrus punch, from orange blossom honey to a gin-laced grapefruit granita. Squeeze the orange juice fresh if you can, as it will become laced with fresh oils from the rind, which enhances the bitterness of the Campari.

1 teaspoon orange blossom honey

5 or 6 pineapple sage leaves (you can substitute fresh mint or basil)

2 large tablespoons grapefruit-gin granita

3 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice

1 ounce Campari

Pour the honey in the bottom of a tall chilled glass. Muddle the pineapple sage leaves into the honey until lightly crushed, then add the grapefruit-gin granita on top. Quickly shake the orange juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and strain into the glass. Float the Campari over the juice and enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: A Good Booze Classic

Labor Day approaches, Boozers. And, with that, we’ve decided to stop and smell the late summer roses and revisit a Good Booze Classic known as Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur. Similar to a sipping tequila, this lovely little libation needs no frills or fripperies — like a perfect day at the beach, all you need is a gentle breeze and a friendly companion.

You can view the original post here, which waxes poetic on earthquakes, hurricanes, and overripe peaches. We’ve also included our favorite version of the recipe below — if you set it up today, you will indeed have something tasty to sip on the front porch come Monday afternoon, as you sadly wave goodbye to the final hours of summer. Keep a kleenex handy.

Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur

While you can make this with any fruit or liquor that you prefer, we find that this particular recipe truly captures the flavors of late summer. This liqueur is also perfect in our Margarita Aperitif, which takes the essence of a classic margarita and distills it down into two ounces of perfection. If you don’t finish it all in one go, make sure to keep the liqueur refrigerated, or it becomes slightly bitter. 

One ripe peach, sliced

One hot Italian pepper, split

1 tablespoon lavender honey

Triple Sec

Place peach slices and whole pepper into a 12-ounce mason jar; cover with triple sec and let sit in a cool place for a few days. Stores in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

The Friday Tipple: OlymPimms

What ho, Boozers. The Olympic flame is burning brightly across the Pond — let the games begin. Here in the Colonies, we’re gearing up for a replay of the American uprising, as we can’t stand to be outdone for long by the monarchy. Didn’t they get enough time in the limelight with that royal wedding? Michael Phelps, do your thing.

Yet, despite it all, Anglophile fever grips us as we stockpile crumpets and Earl Grey tea to partake of while we watch semi-naked hurdlers and fully-clothed dressage. Or, even better, Pimm’s. Nothing could be more British than a proper Pimm’s Cup, unless you’re an American upstart who can’t leave well enough alone. So today we offer for your approval the OlymPimms, a melding of American ingenuity with good old British know-how. Get your friends together for a little relay race with the remote, then settle in for two weeks of competitive couch surfing. Pip-pip.

OlymPimms

We like a classic, simple Pimm’s Cup ourselves, but the fruity flavor of Pimm’s No. 1 also lends itself to a berry-filled interpretation. As Pimm’s No. 1 is gin-based, we macerated some strawberries in our favorite American-made gin, Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin, and then whipped up a housemade blueberry-ginger soda for the mixer. Trust us: it’s sublime.

Blueberry-Ginger simple syrup (recipe below)

Pimm’s No. 1

Gin

Dry vermouth

Fresh strawberries, stems removed

Chilled club soda

To make the Blueberry-Ginger simple syrup: Take one cup of cleaned fresh blueberries and put them in a small saucepan. Add water until the blueberries are just covered, then stir in 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Add a one-inch piece of fresh ginger and bring the mixture to a rolling simmer. Reduce heat to very low and cook until reduced by half and syrup has thickened. Strain; can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

To make the OlymPimms: Put one large or two small ripe strawberries in the bottom of a tall glass. Add one ounce gin, a splash of dry vermouth, and muddle the strawberries. Set aside for 15 minutes. In a cocktail shaker, pour 2 – 3 tablespoons of blueberry-ginger syrup in the bottom of the shaker, then add 4 ounces chilled club soda and stir thoroughly. Add a few ice cubes to the tall glass and pour in the blueberry-ginger soda. Top with one ounce of Pimm’s No. 1 and garnish with a strawberry.

The Friday Tipple: Global Warming Gin Fizz

It’s bloody hot, Boozers. And it’s only April, so we have decided that we may as well accept the inevitable and jump right into summer cocktails. What with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster last week and Earth Day looming this weekend, we sometimes feel like we are on a sinking ship, environmentally speaking, as polar bears sunbathe on renegade icebergs bobbing along the Gulf Stream.

The spring flowers have already spent their blooms by now and we find ourselves in premature possession of our favorite mid-summer treat: fresh local blueberries. So we shrugged our shoulders, saying “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” while reaching for a bottle of Campari. As Mother likes to say, “Dress for the weather, not for the season”, and we think this applies to happy hour as well. Why deny ourselves a refreshing libation simply because the calendar is not in compliance with the barometer? Stretch out on a deck chair with drink in hand — that’s what they did on the Titanic.

Global Warming Gin Fizz

In observance of Earth Day, we went as local and organic as we could in this tasty tipple, utilizing our favorite Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin, early blueberries, and wild lavender honey. Forage in your own area this weekend by supporting local distillers and farmers when mixing up a celebratory cocktail or two.

2 ounces gin

1/4 cup fresh blueberries

2 teaspoons local honey (try something floral to deepen the flavor)

1/2 of a fresh orange

chilled club soda

1/2 ounce Campari

orange wedge for garnish

Crush the blueberries in the bottom of a glass, add the gin and honey, and mix well. Set aside for one hour.

After an hour, squeeze the fresh orange over the blueberry-gin mixture and stir. Add a few ice cubes, top with chilled club soda, then float Campari over the top. Garnish with an orange wedge and enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Bikini Shot

Bathing suit season is on the horizon, Boozers. Buxom babes are overtaking magazine covers, glowing with cocoa butter on far-flung tropical beaches. Whether you hope to be a buxom babe or merely to attract a buxom babe, the approach of Spring Break prompts us to ponder the winter flab so cleverly hidden by chunky sweaters. It’s time to detox.

While we could consider exercising a little more — or at all — we prefer to go the route of a desperate last-minute liquid diet in order to shed those unwanted pounds. Protein shakes, spinach smoothies, and lemon juice spiked with cayenne are all on the menu, but as happy hour approaches, we feel the need for a little special cocktail to reward ourselves for all that self-denial.

Our detox drink of choice is our Bikini Shot — combining the health benefits of kiwi fruit, laden with vitamin C and E and colon-cleansing dietary fiber, with a vodka-laced grapefruit granita. It starts off tart and cold and ends up sweet and smooth, not unlike easing yourself into a pool. The Bikini Shot may not actually make that saggy old Speedo fit any better, but it sure will make you feel like a million bucks. Go ahead — hit the beach. Hang ten!

Bikini Shot

A granita is similar in texture to a shaved ice, made with fresh fruit juice, sugar, and, in this case, alcohol. We used Square One Cucumber Vodka for this recipe, as the cucumber essence adds a fresh note to the grapefruit, but it would work beautifully with gin. We’ve also had success with a blackberry granita made with Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit, which has a certain grappa-like quality that makes us feel like we are vacationing on the Amalfi coast.

One whole grapefruit, juiced and retaining some of the pulp

3 ounces vodka or gin

2 ripe kiwi fruits, peeled and cut into chunks

1 orange, juiced

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

To make the granita: combine the grapefruit juice, pulp, and vodka or gin and pour into a shallow freezer-safe dish (like a pie pan). Place uncovered in the freezer for an hour, then scrape with a spoon to loosen the ice crystals. Return to the freezer for another hour. It can be scraped into a freezer-safe container at this point and kept in the freezer until ready to use.

To make the kiwi fruit juice: Put kiwi, orange juice, and agave nectar in a blender and blend until smooth. Strain through a sieve to remove seeds (optional). Chill for 30 minutes.

Pour two ounces kiwi juice into a shot glass or aperitif glass; top with a spoonful of grapefruit granita. Enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Tall, Dark, and Handsome

Faith and begorrah, Boozers — St. Patrick’s Day is looming large. Ireland has brought us some lovely things: Guinness, Bono, Enya, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Guinness, Baileys… did we mention Guinness? The good people of Ireland will tell you that St. Patrick’s Day is not a day to spend in drinking and carousing, but rather in attending religious services and communing with family. We’re not buying it.

Normally, we’d sink ourselves into a pint or two of creamy Beamish, perhaps accompanied by a dram of whiskey, but the groundhog seems to have made a mighty mistake this year on his weather predictions. Spring sprang some weeks back and we have moved onto summer at a pretty fast clip. Which made us long for a classic Dark & Stormy, that harbinger of warm weather fun.

Today’s Tipple is the best of all worlds, we think — a bit of a Shandy crossed with a Stormy, perfect for an unseasonably warm St. Patrick’s Day. Go ahead, get your green on. Beannachtam na Femle Padraig!

Tall, Dark, and Handsome

We tend to think of the Irish as being magically beautiful with lilting accents that will charm the socks off us. Of course, that could just be the alcohol talking, but why quibble? You could substitute a shot of Irish whiskey for the black rum, but we think it adds a splash of warm sunshine to the richness of the stout.

3 ounces chilled ginger beer (we prefer a Bermuda-style like Barritts)

3 ounces chilled stout (we do love the aforementioned Irish brands, but also enjoy local varieties, such as Dogfish Head Chicory Stout)

1 ounce Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (150 proof)

Pour the ginger beer into a tall glass. Layer the stout over the top to maintain a little golden glow at the bottom of the glass. Pour rum over the top. Take a cab when you go out to hit the pubs.

 

The Friday Tipple: Tomato Water Martini

The leaves are starting to fall, dear Boozers. As the days shorten, we find ourselves with the last of the summer fruits gently rotting on the vine; you’ve probably seen them also, sadly tottering in untidy piles at the farmer’s market: tomatoes. They are usually rather ugly this time of year, coming in an odd assortment of colors, overripe to the point of implosion. These tomatoes are like wrinkled old women at the seaside determined to get one more day of sunshine before winter strips them of their tans. These tomatoes know that they are headed for the compost bin if they can’t attract your attention.

Luckily for them, we were inspired this week in the Good Booze kitchen by a recipe for tomato water in the latest issue of Imbibe and by a brand spanking new bottle of Square One Organic Cucumber Vodka. We treated this cocktail in the simplest way possible, much like our Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur — no need for fussiness here. The cucumber essence of the vodka combined with the slight tartness of the tomato water gives you one last tiny blast of summer, and, if you add a few drops of hot sauce (we like our local Uncle Brutha’s varieties), it turns out to be a pretty good way to combat the first head cold of the season. Either way, it’s a win-win, for you and those last desperate tomatoes of the year. Cheers!

Tomato Water Martini

One cup fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped, any variety

Chilled vodka (we like the Square One Cucumber rye vodka)

Kosher salt

Hot sauce (Uncle Brutha’s No. 9 Chile Verde Garlic & Ginger is our fave)

Kalamata olives for garnish (optional, of course)

Let the tomatoes sit at room temperature for a couple of hours. Wrap them in cheesecloth and squeeze them tightly to extract the juice, or press them through a fine-mesh sieve. Strain them again to remove any errant seeds or pulp. Pour two ounces of the tomato water and two ounces of vodka into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass, then sprinkle a pinch of Kosher salt over the top, add a few dashes of hot sauce, and garnish with Kalamata olives. Enjoy!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 600 other followers