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.

 

 

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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: 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: 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 Friday Tipple: Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Ruby Rhubarb 'Rita

Hola, Boozers. Here in the old U.S. of A, we’ll take any excuse to have a margarita, which explains why Cinco de Mayo is more popular here than in its country of origin, and why most of the people partaking in the celebrations have likely never even traveled south of the border (unless you count a visit to Pedro’s highway oasis) or can speak nary a soupçon of Spanish. Whatever. It’s a margarita. Bring it on.

The tart freshness of spring fruits lend themselves to margaritas that far surpass the standard variety made with overly sweet mixes. We went a little fancy this week by creating a base from ruby red grapefruit and rhubarb, but the result is well worth the small amount of effort it takes to make a more complex margarita. This is a drink not meant to be insulted with a bowl of Doritos and Cheez Whiz on the side, but would stand up perfectly to a fresh shrimp ceviche or an authentic pozole verde. Go ahead, put on that sombrero and live a little. Salud!

Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Rhubarb is a fruit, or a vegetable, depending upon who you ask, with a texture and flavor often likened to tart celery. Our Ruby Rhubarb syrup is layered with flavors that simply cried out for a layering of liquors; sticking with tradition, we used a silver tequila and a splash of triple sec, but then floated a little white whiskey over the top, our American nod to a fiery aguardiente.

for the Ruby Rhubarb syrup:

1 cup  rhubarb stems, roughly chopped

1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice with pulp, freshly squeezed

1 cup water

1 cup turbinado sugar

4 or 5 pineapple sage leaves (you can substitute with basil leaves)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for one hour, allowing the rhubarb to soften and break down. When the liquid has thickened slightly, remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Strain thoroughly through a fine-mesh sieve; can now be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Yield: about 1 cup.

to make the ‘Rita:

1 lime

2 – 3 tablespoons Ruby Rhubarb syrup (adjust to your taste)

2 ounces silver tequila (we’re loving the herbaceous Avión Tequila these days)

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce white (unaged) whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirits)

Fresh rhubarb, cut into a 4-inch stick for garnish (optional)

Cut the lime in half and squeeze all the juice into a cocktail shaker. Add the Ruby Rhubarb syrup, the tequila, the triple sec, and several ice cubes. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with coarse salt. Top with the clear whiskey, garnish with fresh rhubarb, and drink up.

 

The Friday Tipple: Tequila Kiss

Tequila Kiss

Life can be complicated, Boozers. While we missed you dreadfully when we were on vacation last week, it felt good to strip away our responsibilities for a scant few days and dig our toes into the sand. Our new mantra since returning to the grownup world of deadlines, bills, and dirty dishes: Keep It Simple, Stupid, a.k.a. KISS.

While we trailed our fingers in the warm waters surrounding a drifting kayak, we sipped on tequila. There is something about tequila that just says “Let it all go”, and we were only too happy to comply. It didn’t hurt that we’d just recently read that tequila would help us lose weight, meaning that we could indulge in that extra slice of chocolate-raspberry cheesecake with mango coulis. No matter if we didn’t exactly return from vacation noticeably thinner, albeit much more relaxed.

As you dear Boozers know, we like a drink that is not overdone, especially at the end of a long week, so we made this drink simple and to the point — because sometimes we overlook the simplest solutions to life’s complexities. Enjoy.

Tequila Kiss

There are a lot of tequilas out there and a recent visit to New Mexico proved to us that there is a wide range of subtle flavors in the Tequila Canon. Use a clean silver tequila for this cocktail; we used Avión today because it has a light herbaceous quality with a citrusy undertone that suits our spring fever.

2 ounces silver or blanco tequila

3 ounces chilled club soda

1 fresh lime, halved

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

We weren’t joking when we said this was simple. Fill a glass with ice and pour in tequila and squeeze half of the lime into the bottom of the glass. Add club soda and agave nectar and stir briskly, then squeeze other lime half over the top. That’s it.

The Friday Tipple: Bananarama

Bananarama

We’re beach-bound, Boozers. Shimmering waves and soft breezes are calling to us seductively, but we still have 24 hours of packing and planning to go. Vacation-itis has hit us hard, and we find ourselves daydreaming of breakfast in bed and leisurely hours spent gamboling along the shoreline. We roundly curse the last-minute projects dumped on our desks.

Which is why it’s time for a daiquiri. Screw the projects. The vacation starts now.

Rum is a must-have in vacation cocktails. It reminds us of devil-may-care pirates sucking down grog with gay abandon as they swing on ropes across the bow of a schooner bedecked in the skull-and-crossbones.  It signals reckless freedom in the fierce sunshine of a tropical spring. Wherever you are and whatever the weather, rum transports us to the Caribbean of our souls. Revel in it.

Bananarama

Some people use up overly ripe bananas in muffins or quick bread. We prefer a daiquiri. This is not the frosty variety that you might find on a cruise ship, topped with a mound of whipped cream, but a more subtle version that slips softly down the gullet. We like to use Gosling’s Gold or Mount Gay rum, which truly taste of the tropics, but a good quality Puerto Rican white rum like Don Q Cristal will also do the trick. Because we like the flavor of coffee with banana, we added a dusting of powdered coffee mixed with a little sugar (this is a great way to use up those packets of Starbucks VIA instant coffee).

1 very ripe banana

2 ounces chilled coconut water

1.5 ounces rum (we recommend a gold or white rum)

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

juice of half a lime

1/4 teaspoon instant coffee mixed with a little granulated sugar(optional)

Put first 5 ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into a margarita glass and dust the top with instant coffee. Yo ho ho!

 

Arr! Drink Like a Pirate Day!

Keep Calm and Carry Rum

Avast, me hearties, it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day while tomorrow is, ironically, National Rum Punch Day — so we like to think of today as Drink Like a Pirate Day. With the autumn equinox just around the corner, what could be better than sucking down a little Caribbean delight as summer gently slips away? Now, we are inclined to stroll to the local market and grab some late summer berries — strawberries and raspberries are still running rampant in many parts of the country — which we can throw into a blender with a little freshly-squeezed orange juice to make a great mixer. To that, we’d add a lime-infused simple syrup (or even our own Blackberry Lavender Simple Syrup) and, our old favorite, Mount Gay Rum (ah, Barbados…), topping it all off with a sprinkle of Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate, a little fresh nutmeg, and maybe some fresh fruit impaled on one of those little pink plastic swords. Perfection!

However, if you want to go a little more traditional, or don’t feel like hunting down fresh fruit, then check this out for the next best thing: Mount Gay Rum Punch.

Yo ho ho!

The Friday Tipple: Clevedale Sunset

Clevedale Sunset

We’ve headed back south, Boozers. Along the miles between Vacationland and the Mason-Dixon Line, the air became heavier, the flower petals exploded in perfume, and we found ourselves yearning for a shady portico. We discovered all this, and more, at Clevedale Historic Inn in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where we were inspired by the stately architecture and formal gardens, along with a great thirst.

When in the South, one feels a necessity to drink whiskey and citrus, but the elegant setting of the Clevedale Inn makes the addition of something sparkling almost another necessity. And so we present you with the Clevedale Sunset, a bubbly sipper touched with a certain Southern languor, perfect for imbibing on the porch as the horizontal shadows lengthen across the lawn and the frogs begin to sing their bedtime lullabies. Lean back, close your eyes, and listen to the whisper of a Carolina breeze.

Clevedale Sunset

We always enjoy the local hooch wherever we go, and several young distilleries are popping up across South Carolina. Dark Corner Distillery of Greenville makes a Carolina bourbon whiskey that we knew would be just right as the base for this cocktail: slightly smoky with just the faintest note of a Carolina pine forest.

6 ounces bourbon

1 fresh orange

chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine

orange bitters (for this we used Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters)

Place the bourbon in a clean glass jar. Cut several long twists of orange peel from the fresh orange and put them in the jar with the bourbon, then cut the orange in half and put one half into the jar as well. Cover and chill thoroughly (you can place in the freezer for one hour or in the refrigerator for up to four hours). Remove orange half and reserve orange twists.

To assemble the drink, pour one ounce of the chilled bourbon into a chilled wine glass and top with four ounces of chilled Prosecco. Yes, there’s a lot of chilling here, but you will be glad of it on a sticky Southern summer evening. Add two dashes of orange bitters and one of the reserved orange twists. Serve immediately.

The Friday Tipple: Vacationland

Vacationland

We’re on vacation, Boozers. Not only that, we’re in Vacationland itself, the great state of Maine, the way life should be. Surrounded by softly rippling blue water, perky green pine trees, and fluffy little clouds, it’s like living inside a Bob Ross painting. And so, we are doing what one should do when on vacation: kicking back, communing with the locals, and eschewing work of any kind. We advise you to do the same, whether you are on vacation today or not. It’s Friday, and it’s happy hour somewhere. Ayup.

Vacationland

Although we ain’t concocting any cocktails this week, we are happy to detail some of the fine items we’ve found, and would like to commend the great state of Maine for making liquor available right in the local drugstore. Talk about Yankee ingenuity. Not only that, but there’s something about the fleeting nature of a Downeast summer that makes everything taste more intense, tinged with a briny sweetness.

Shipyard Smashed Blueberry Malt Beverage
Twenty2 Vodka
Cold River Blueberry Vodka
Liberal Cup Tarbox Cream Stout
Tree Spirits Knotted Maple Liqueur
Honeymaker Dry Mead