Saturday, August 3, 2013

Summer Cocktails - only good with the right ingredients and company.

I was never much of an imbiber, but slowly have become one. When I was in my teens I may or may not have had a fake ID but I got it so I could get into the good dancing clubs, just to dance. Yes, I am that big of a nerd.  Side note: according to my fake ID, I am 47. It seemed like a much better trade-off at 16, when I was "21".

Then I became a beer snob and then I became a wino (wine snob), which I blame on Spouse as he is also both. The good thing with being a snob about liquid is I drink but not to excess, generally speaking. I drink because I really enjoy whatever it is I have in my glass and, let’s face it, normally I’m in excellent company too, so what better way to hang out with my favorite peeps than with an adult beverage.

When I moved to The ‘Shire, though, I discovered a love for cocktails. And white wine, but that’s not nearly as exciting as cocktails. With cocktails, there is infinite variety even with just a few ingredients.

The first cocktail that I fell in love with is the French 75. I agree with Wikipedia as their description of this cocktail is “The combination was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm field gun,” because the combo of gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar can pack a bit of a wallop. Especially if you can’t stop at one.

My favorite gin is distilled right here in my Capital City of Columbus, OH by Watershed Distillery, so it’s the first step in my cocktail creation. I pour 2 oz of Watershed's Four Peel Gin in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, followed by 2 oz. of fresh lemon juice and a dollop of superfine sugar or blue agave syrup. Shake these three items well and strain into a nice glass. Then add 3-4 oz. of Champagne or prosecco, give a nice stir and poof – you have a fantabulous French 75.
The Cavendish glass blown by Simon Pearce of Quechee, Vermont. 
One interesting note on this cocktail: I have found that I can drink more than a few over the course of the evening and don’t feel "effected" in the morning, as I will with say wine or beer. I’m not sure why, but have experimented with this, to support the science that surely exists. Because that’s how committed I am to the proper reporting on this blog. You are welcome.

The next cocktail I discovered was discovered in one of my favorite American cities, San Francisco. I was there for work and we held a dinner event at one of the top 100 restaurants in the city, Park Tavern, in North Beach on Washington Square Park.  The bartender for our event was one of those gifted chaps who can think on the fly, so when I told him I wanted something "tasty", he asked me a few questions and determined a Moscow Mule was the cocktail for me. I was hooked.

The next day, I was having lunch with a colleague in our hotel, the incredible Fairmont-San Francisco and saw it on the menu. They serve it in the traditional copper mug and while the presentation was delightful, I do have to say the Park Tavern cocktail wins.

A Moscow Mule is 2 oz. vodka (I prefer Tito’s), then add 2 oz. fresh lime juice, shaken in an iced cocktail shaker and poured into – ideally – a copper mug, then topped with 4 oz. of the tastiest ginger beer you can find. 
NOTE: I wrote ginger beer – not ginger ale. For this cocktail it is a very important distinction. You want something very gingery, that can stand up to the lime juice, so ginger beer is the best bet. My bartender at Park Tavern used Fever Tree (which I’ve only recently found in Ohio) but in The ‘Shire, I would only use Maine Root Ginger Brew. If you like pumpkin flavored anything, you have to have Maine Root's Pumpkin Pie Soda. It is fantastic - like a piece of liquid pumpkin pie. 

My last cocktail to discuss today is a Pimm’s No. 1 Cup (also just known as a Pimm’s Cup). This is one of the two staple drinks at the Wimbledon tennis tournament – the other being Champagne - so it is in good company.
No one really knows exactly what is in Pimm’s No. 1 – and frankly, I don’t care. It’s just delicious and light and not super-alcoholic. It makes a great brunch beverage for that reason.  There are also a bajillion things you can do with Pimm’s but this is what I do: 
Pour about 4 oz. in an iced shaker, add 4 oz. 7-up ideally but in a pinch Sierra Mist or regular Ginger Ale isn’t bad either.
-  Pour into a glass with ice.
If you are feeling super fancy, add in some mint, cucumber slices, strawberries or other fruit to taste. 

One of the most popular variations for Pimm's Cups is to use lemonade (preferably homemade from fresh lemons) instead of ginger ale or lemon-lime soda but I haven't gotten that far in my experimentation. Sounds delightful though. 

My favorite memories for each of the drinks are:
- French 75: torn between the night at Megamind’s place in the rural woods of New Hampshire when I was introduced to the afore-mentioned Barefoot Contessa’s Fresh Corn Salad and Megamind’s (dearly departed) white chicken, Cate Blanchett and secondly, any of the myriad of evenings in Sydney’s kitchen with my ladies, making delicious food and dancing like weirdos.
Moscow Mule: has to be the lunch with my colleague in the supa fancy Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar at the Fairmont-San Francisco.
Pimm’s Cup: brunch one Sunday at Market Table with Sydney and Jim. Was just super relaxed, delicious and they, of course, present the drink all fancy with cucumber and strawberry slices.

You will note that all of these cocktails are the sort where measuring is fine but you can also just kinda eye-ball it. None are intense recipes where you must get the exact amount, etc. And you’ll also note that I tend toward the citrus and fruit types. I’m not a drinker to order a liquor neat or even by itself on the rocks.

Notice some of these beverages have crafted vessels just for them. I posit these vessels do impart something special to the experience, especially if it's the first time you've enjoyed the cocktail. However, as my post title, and my own memories, impart is that what really makes the experience is finding the right ingredients to suit your taste and more importantly, the right company. I'd still drink a French 75 made of bathtub gin, fake lemon concentrate juice and back-water fizzy sugar water if it was with the right company. 

What is your favorite summer cocktail? 
What is your favorite memory of drinking it? 

No comments:

Post a Comment