Pineapple Sage: It’s Not Just for Hummingbirds!
Here’s a drink with a new and unusual ingredient: Combier Kummel, a modern version of a traditional caraway, cumin, and fennel-flavored herbal liqueur. If you don’t have kummel and can’t get it, I’ll let you in on a little secret: tequila and pineapple are amazing together. Get some pineapple juice and a good orange liqueur (like Original Combier) and start experimenting with variations on this delightful theme.
Pineapple Express (by Tommy Klus, Portland, OR)
10 leaves pineapple sage
.5 oz agave nectar
1.5 oz tequila reposado
.75 oz Combier Kummel
1 oz fresh lemon juice
In a shaker, lightly muddle pineapple sage leaves in agave nectar, then add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and strain into a coupe or Martini glass. Garnish with a small pineapple sage sprig. (Smack sprig in hand to release the plant’s aromatic oils.)
Edible Flowers and a Meyer Improved Lemon Drop
Edible flowers in cocktails? Of course! They’re the most elegant garnishes in the world, and they have to be fresh from the garden. Here are a few of my favorites.
I approve of Lemon Drops only when the vodka is infused with real fruit, not “natural flavors,” and only when you float a little bubbly on top to knock back the sweetness. I’m not a fan of putting sugar on the rim, but if you want to do it, run a lemon wedge around the rim of a chilled martini glass, then dip the rim in sugar.
Meyer Improved Lemon Drop
1.5 oz Hangar One Citron ‘Buddha’s Hand’ or Mandarin Blossom Vodka
.5 oz Cointreau
.5 oz Meyer lemon juice
Splash of sparkling wine
1 thin lemon slice
1 pansy with a small bit of stem attached.
Optional sugar for rim
Do the sugar rim if you are so inclined. Shake the first three ingredients over ice and pour into a martini glass. Slowly pour sparkling wine on top so it floats. (Segura Viudas cava, a Spanish brut, works well and is available in small, single-serving bottles.) Run the pansy stem through the center of the lemon slice and float that in the drink.
Peach and Bourbon Wonderfulness
Bourbon doesn’t play nice with just any kind of fruit. It’s dreadful with berries and tropical fruit. It’s delightful with sour cherries (in an Old-Fashioned, which we’ll get to someday), and it’s heavenly with a little orange liqueur—but then again, citrus is a kind of all-purpose mixer that brightens up just about any cocktail.
But peaches? Bourbon and peaches were made for each other.
So get the ripest, runniest peaches you can, and accept no substitutes. (I wouldn’t disapprove of trying this with thawed frozen peaches if you can’t get fresh ones, but that’s between you and your cocktail.) You’re also going to need some fresh spearmint, which I hope is thriving in your garden right about now. And sugar. Some Southerners insist on powdered sugar, but it generally contains cornstarch, which gets lumpy and weird in a cocktail. Superfine or regular sugar will get the job done. If you’re making a batch of these, take the time to make simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water in the microwave or on the stove, bringing it to a boil to dissolve the sugar, and putting it in the freezer to cool down. It blends much more easily and helps avoid the not-altogether-too-terrible problem of all the sugar settling at the bottom of the glass. (Simple syrup doesn’t store well, so just make as much as you need for the evening.)
Peach Mint Julep
1.5 oz bourbon
1 peach, quartered
1 sprig mint
1 tsp sugar or simple syrup
A splash (let’s call it .5 oz) Domaine de Canton or King’s Ginger liqueur, or one slice fresh ginger (optional)
In a cocktail shaker (or a mason jar, or any large, sturdy glass), combine a quarter to a half of the peach, most of the mint (save a few leaves for garnish), sugar, and the ginger liqueur or ginger slice. Gently crush them with a muddler or wooden spoon.
At this point, you have a decision to make. I like to mix this up in a mason jar, top it with crushed ice, fill it up with bourbon, and just drink the whole mess. I consider it a waste to toss out a booze-soaked, crushed-up peach. Isn’t that a fruit serving? But you might not like a bunch of mashed produce at the bottom of your drink, in which case you ought to add the bourbon, shake well with ice, and strain it into a glass over crushed ice at this point.
The crushed ice is really important. If you don’t have an ice crusher (What? No ice crusher?) wrap some ice in a dishtowel and whack it with a hammer.
In any case, taste it and adjust the proportions to your liking. I generally add a little more bourbon at this stage, and would have written the recipe that way, but a serving of hard liquor is a paltry 1.5 ounces and I feel obligated to give you a recipe that doesn’t veer too far from that sanctimonious standard.
Run a slice of peach around the rim of the glass, garnish with mint and/or another slice of peach, and you’re good to go.
Where should you go? To your porch, of course. Bourbon was made to be sipped on a porch, in good or not-so-good company, preferably with a guitar or at least a radio nearby. Experience has taught me not to set the glass down when the chickens are around, or they’ll pick the peaches out and run away with them. So raise a glass with any non-feathered friend, and enjoy.
Put It In a Mason JarWhen I go to a backyard barbeque, I don’t bring a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer. I mix up a batch of cocktails in a Mason jar, using the ripest summer fruit I can find. I usually get invited back. So here’s what you’re going to do:
First, go out and get the best fruit you can find. Ripe, juicy, almost past-their-prime peaches and nectarines would be a good start. Watermelons or cantaloupes should also be very high on the list. Strawberries will work, but a firmer fruit like a mango might not. You want more juice than pulp for a drink like this. Get at least a dozen fresh limes as well. No bottled lime juice allowed.
You’re also going to need a bunch of mint. If you’re not growing it already, pick up a plant at the farmer’s market and get that started for next time. You need spearmint, not peppermint, and I love a variety called ‘Mojito Mint,’ which actually comes from Cuba, or ‘Kentucky Colonel,’ the classic Southern mint julep variety. Grow it in a pot to keep it from taking over, and start a new pot from a runner every few years to keep the flavor fresh, as older plants get a little tough and lose some sweetness.
Now go pick up some rum and, for a variation I’ll get to in a minute, some tequila. Mojitos are traditionally made with silver (unaged) rum, but amazing things happen to rum when you put it in a barrel, so I’m in favor of sneaking some dark rum in, too. Do yourself a favor and buy something decent. Cruzan rums are perfectly nice, and St. Lucia Distillers has been winning some awards lately, so give them a try. For tequila, I’m drinking a lovely 123 reposado tequila that will make you love tequila even if you’ve been burned before. If you can’t find that, Espolón is also great, and reasonably priced at just over twenty bucks. If you want to get fancy and you’re feeling a long-term relationship with fruity, rum-based drinks coming on, pick up a bottle of Velvet Falernum at the liquor store, too. This is a sweet, spicy syrup that adds a little indefinable something to tropical drinks. Ever noticed how that drink you had on St. Croix never tastes as good when you make it at home? Short of a ticket back to the islands, Velvet Falernum is what you’ve been missing.
1.5 cups rum
1.5 cups freshly-squeezed watermelon (or other fruit) juice
½ – ¾ cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
½ cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and boiling water, cooled)
Splash of Velvet Falernum (optional)
30 spearmint leaves
In a one-quart mason jar, combine the mint leaves and the simple syrup. Gently crush the mint leaves with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add the rum, then squeeze the limes directly into the jar, ideally using a hand-held citrus squeezer that expresses not just the juice, but the oil from the rind as well. Now add the fruit juice. You can either puree it and put it through a strainer, or use a food mill. A little pulp is fine. Add a splash of Velvet Falernum if you’ve got it.
Screw the lid on the mason jar, shake well, and take it to the party. When you get there, pour a little into a glass over crushed ice. Add equal part club soda, taste it, and see if you like it. Add more of any ingredient until you’ve got it right.
Oh, and about that tequila variation: Swap the rum for tequila, cut the lime juice, sugar, and mint in half, and forget about the Velvet Falernum and club soda. Once again, adjust all quantities to taste.
Herbal Simple Syrups
To make your own herbal simple syrups, combine equal parts sugar and water and heat until the sugar melts. Add fresh, clean herbs and steep for one hour. Strain and use immediately, or save in the refrigerator in a tightly-sealed bottle or jar for 2-3 weeks. To make it last longer, add a splash of vodka.
Invent your own garden-inspired cocktails by mixing herbal simple syrups with your favorite spirit—think vodka, gin, or rum—adding lemon or lime juice, and topping with soda or sparkling wine. Garnish with fruit or fresh herbs.
1.5 oz white rum
.5 oz lemongrass simple syrup
3-4 sprigs ‘Mojito’ mint or another spearmint
1 stick lemongrass
4-6 oz club soda
Reserve one sprig of mint for garnish. Make simple syrup by heating equal parts sugar and water until the sugar melts, then add the lemongrass allow to cool and steep for one hour.
Combine rum, simple syrup, mint, and lemongrass in a cocktail shaker, then squeeze lime juice into shaker and drop the lime in. Using a muddler or a wooden spoon, gently crush all ingredients to release the flavors. Add ice and shake thoroughly, then strain into a glass of crushed ice. Top with club soda and garnish with mint.
The Frezier Affair
1.5 oz white rum
.5 oz yellow Chartreuse
3-5 alpine strawberries
3-4 lemon verbena leaves
1 lemon wedge
This is a twist on a recipe from The Drunken Botanist that celebrates the contributions of Amédée-François Frézier, who introduced Chilean strawberries to Europe. Crosses between the Chilean strawberries and European alpine strawberries led to the large, ripe, juicy berries we enjoy today. The yellow Chartreuse, a French herbal liqueur, is a nod to Frézier’s nationality.
Reserve one small strawberry or a slice for garnish. Squeeze lemon wedge into a cocktail shaker and add the other ingredients. Gently crush the berries and herbs with a muddler. Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a strawberry.
The Berry Patch
1.5 oz white rum
.5 oz simple syrup
Strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries
1/2 lime, fresh-squeezed
Optional: Soda or sparkling wine
Reserve one mint sprig or berry for garnish. Squeeze lime into a cocktail shaker and add the other ingredients. Gently crush the berries and herbs with a muddler. Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with soda or sparkling wine if desired, then add garnish.
The Farmers Market
1.5 oz vodka
2-3 ‘Mexican Sour Gherkin’ cucumbers
1-2 stalks ‘Red Venture’ celery
2-3 sprigs cilantro
2-3 slices small spicy or mild peppers
6 cherry tomatoes or 1-2 slices large tomato
Dash of Worcestershire sauce (try Annie’s for a vegetarian version)
3-4 oz Q or Fever Tree tonic water
Reserve a celery stalk, cherry tomato, or cucumber for garnish. Combine all ingredients except the tonic water in a cocktail shaker and gently crush the vegetables and herbs, making sure to release the tomato juice. Shake with ice and strain into a tumbler filled with ice. Top with tonic water and add garnish.
I'll Have What She's Having
1.5 oz gin. (vodka if you must, but really–gin. Hendrick‘s would be a fine choice.)
Basil and cucumber, muddled.
Squeeze of lime juice.
Shake all that over ice, pour it in a cocktail glass, and top with:
Splash of Dry Cucumber Soda
Garnish with a slice of cucumber or a basil leaf. Cheers!
Agave y Sandía
1.5 oz 100% agave tequila
.5 oz Combier or another orange liqueur
4-5 chunks fresh watermelon
1/4 fresh lime
3-4 sprigs‘Margarita’ spearmint or rosemary
Optional: fresh jalapeño slice
Reserve a chunk of watermelon or herb sprig for garnish. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and crush with a muddler or wooden spoon, being sure to release all the watermelon juice. Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Add garnish.
1.5 oz 100% agave añejo or reposado tequila
.5 oz Sage-honey syrup (see note)
1/2 lemon, preferably a Meyer lemon
Sage leaf for garnish
Note: To make sage-honey syrup, combine equal parts hot water and honey, and add fresh sage leaves. Allow to steep for one hour before using. Squeeze lemon into cocktail shaker and add the other ingredients. Shake well with ice and strain into a glass over ice. Add garnish.
1.5 oz 100% agave tequila
2 oz pineapple juice (fresh if possible)
.5 oz agave nectar or simple syrup
2-3 fresh jalapeño slices
2-3 sage leaves
1/2 small lime
Optional: Club soda or lemon-lime soda
Squeeze lime into cocktail shaker and add other ingredients. Muddle sage leaves and peppers to release the flavors. Shake well over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Optional variation: Pour into a tall, skinny Collins glass over ice and top with soda to taste.
1.5 oz Hendrick’s Gin
.5 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
3-4 chunks lemon cucumber
2-3 sprigs basil
Borage blossom or basil leaf for garnish
Squeeze lemon into cocktail shaker and combine all ingredients except the club soda. Muddle cucumber and basil, then add ice, shake, and strain into a tall, skinny Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and add garnish.
1.5 oz gin
1.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 fresh lime
.5 oz thyme simple syrup (see note)
Thyme sprig for garnish
Note: Make thyme simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water, heating until sugar melts, then adding fresh thyme leaves and allowing to steep for 1 hour.
Combine all ingredients except club soda and garnish in a cocktail shaker. Shake over ice and strain into a tall, skinny Collins glass, a short tumbler, or a Mason jar filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with thyme sprig.
Chamomile Hot Toddy
1-2 oz whiskey
1-2 oz honey-chamomile syrup (see note)
Note: Make honey-chamomile syrup by combining equal parts honey and hot water. Add fresh chamomile blossoms and allow to steep for 1 hour, then strain.
Pour hot water into a heat-proof glass. While you wait for it to heat the glass, press cloves into the rind of the lemon wedge and set aside. Empty the glass and coat the inside with syrup, then add the whiskey and top with hot water. Squeeze the lemon into the drink and drop it into the glass.
Summer Peach Old-Fashioned
1.5 oz bourbon
.5 oz thyme or tarragon simple syrup (see note)
Half of a fresh peach (optional upgrade: Grill the peach first!)
Thyme or tarragon sprig for garnish
Note: Make simple syrup by heating equal parts sugar and water until the sugar melts. Add herbs and allow to steep for one hour, then strain.
Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and muddle the peach to release the juice. Shake well over ice, then strain into a short tumbler filled with ice. Add a dash of bitters and garnish with herbs.