There is something magical about living somewhere that actually has seasons: a giddy gratitude for the first day of spring when the sun is out, and we begin to shed the long coat of heavy, dreary winter days, skipping around with an extra bounce in our step. Even reading that sentence I know i’m drunk on the season, and when I walk outside and see people on their way to baseball games, smiling and waving like they’ve all stepped into an old-timey commercial for lemonade, I know I’m the only one. To celebrate this change in climate, for this month’s Sunday School we will be on Spring Break (“woo” girls and sunburns not guaranteed). So instead, we are happy to bring you 7 days of lovely seasonal cocktail recipes for your imbibing pleasure. I’ll share some whimsical twists on warm weather favorites, which are so lovingly referred to as “Patio Pounders” or if you prefer, “Spring Sippers”, depending on your temperament. Whatever you choose to call them, what makes them so appealing is their breezy and refreshing nature. These light cocktails taste the way the first dip in a pool on a perfect spring day feels. I sincerely hope you enjoy these recipes and make them for friends and loved ones, both for special occasions and spontaneous gatherings during these beautiful warm days ahead. Cheers, and let’s get tipsy on Spring!
Inspiration for cocktails can come from every corner of the brain. My first recipe is inspired by a fond memory from childhood: During the warmer summer months in California, my father would create a cooling beverage for me and my many siblings that I always associated with endless carefree days. He would take ripe cantaloupe and shred it into long, almost pasta-like slivers, then he would add a mixture of sugar, water and ice, finally serving the concoction in a giant pitcher. Once served, he and my mother could enjoy some peace as we occupied ourselves slurping up our warm weather treat. It was the Arthur Manabat version of agua fresca and I bring you my humble version to try at home. Now, this recipe has a lot of moving parts, but the upside is you can make large batches of it and also make some of it ahead of time and omit parts to suit your preferences. I’ve added a basil simple syrup to this recipe and also a pink peppercorn salt to rim your glasses with. I love a little hint of the savory in my cocktails, and the pink peppercorn salt really adds another dimension to this beverage.
CANTALOUPE AGUA FRESCA
4 cups cold water
½ cup lime juice
DIRECTIONS: Take a pitcher, fill half way with water then fill with ice. Break down cantaloupe into small pieces. Fill blender with cantaloupe pieces; add 2 cups of cold water from pitcher. Blend well. Continue process until you go through all the cantaloupe pieces. Once you’ve blended everything, strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth lined colander. Add lime juice to strained mixture. Refrigerate immediately.
BASIL SIMPLE SYRUP
2 cups water
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup torn basil
DIRECTIONS: Add water and sugar to a small pot over medium high heat. Once sugar has dissolved, add torn basil. Once water has come to a boil, lower heat. Simmer mixture for 20 minutes and then take off heat. Once mixture has cooled, strain and pour into container and store in refrigerator.
PINK PEPPERCORN SALT
Take equal parts pink peppercorn and salt, and blend in a spice grinder or high powered blender. Store in an airtight container.
GARNISH: basil leaf and a pink peppercorn salt rim
1 oz gin
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano
1 ½ oz cantaloupe agua fresca
½ oz basil simple syrup
splash of soda
For individual cocktail add all ingredients to a shaker tin except for soda water. Shake well and strain into pink peppercorn rimmed glass, add splash of soda and then ice. I recommend making a large batch of this and change the ounces to cups in recipe and multiply accordingly depending on the amount you want to pre-batch. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and whisk together, add soda water last. Add to a pitcher or punch bowl then add ice. I like to have glasses set out that have already been rimmed with pink peppercorn salt. To rim glasses use a lime wedge to wet your glass then dip in a twisting motion into your pink peppercorn salt mixture. I prefer to only rim half of the glass I’m serving in, in case someone doesn’t care for what I rim their glass with they can drink out of the side sans salt.
LIKE A VIRGIN: Create this as a soda and omit the booze completely. You can pre-bottle the simple syrup and cantaloupe agua fresca and just add soda to order. I adjust the amount of soda water depending on the ripeness of the cantaloupe, and how sweet I’d like the soda to be.
MARATHON NOT A SPRINT: Have a long day of sun surfing ahead of you? Make this a low proof cocktail by omitting the gin altogether and taking the Cocchi Americano up from 1/2 oz to 1 1/2 oz. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Cocchi Americano is a gorgeous apertif wine that has a nice balance of bitterness plus light floral and spicy notes. It is a great buy for your home bar just for it’s versatility alone. You can enjoy it on the rocks with citrus or berries, or you can make it into a nice spritzer with soda water.
DOUBLE DUTY: The pink peppercorn salt is amazing just sprinkled on ripe melon or berries. Make a big batch and you can also use it for margaritas and as one of your go-to grill out seasonings. Another awesome tip is to save the cantaloupe pulp you have left over when you strain your agua fresca and use it to make a granita. You can make a cantaloupe granita with champagne, or a non-alcoholic granita using your basil simple syrup and lime juice. Don’t know how to make a granita you say? (You’re thinking that maybe I just made that word up.) Well, spoiler alert: I will have a splendid and easy granita recipe for you later this week, so no worries!
I’m looking forward to sharing my warm weather recipes this week and hope you find them easy and delicious! And just to get it out of my system: Spring Break WOO!
Cheers, and here is to making memories.
Your neighborhood bartender,