As we skip delightfully into this new season, it’s amazing to see the wonderful new additions that spring (see what I did there?) up on menus across this fine city of ours. The talented community of chefs in town do such a wonderful job reflecting the season onto our plates. Taking inspiration from this, it has been a privilege to see the evolution of cocktail culture in Cincinnati. Now, just as you can expect seasonal food menus, you can expect seasonality in your glass at most bars around town. It’s easy to be inspired by spring – it’s welcoming nature and the invitation to live outside again. Gone are the heavy, spirit forward cocktails that are meant to keep you warm and bolstered through those dark, cold winter months. Spring cocktails are light and whimsical, a celebration of all the new possibilities life has to offer when it isn’t 20 degrees outside. The first great patio day is always the best reason to raise a glass and celebrate. Even on an iffy patio day I’ve seen Cincinnatians make a beeline en masse to get to their favorite outdoor space, whether it’s a restaurant or their backyard. Yeah, it’s barely 50 degrees, but it’s not too bad if you sit in the sunshine and you have margaritas. That’s commitment folks. To celebrate our love affair with spring, the Sunday School team brings you 7 days of cocktails inspired by this glorious season. So pull up a patio chair, kick back and let’s cheers to the long warm days ahead!
The first cocktail I’d like to share is one I actually made for my family when I was home in California for Easter. Spring comes just a tad bit earlier in that part of the world. Yeah, I’m looking at you snow flurries in April! I’m from a large family, so it’s difficult to try and make everyone happy, so I don’t try. Wait, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is, everyone in my family has different palettes especially when it comes to what spirit they prefer. I always try to make a mixer that will pair beautifully with any spirit so that I’m not playing bartender the whole party instead of singing karaoke or beating one of my siblings in Connect 4. The point is finding a great go-to mixer is the cure to any party planners worry about having something for everyone. There are also a universe of possibilities when it comes to tailoring this cocktail to your taste buds. I love the freshness of the cucumber with the slight peppery flavor of the coriander. And I think grapefruit is the perfect citrus to pair with almost any spirit.
4 cups grapefruit juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup torn basil
1 tbsp whole coriander slightly muddled
If you aren’t squeezing fresh grapefruit juice (I get it, it cuts into pool time!) make sure the juice that you use doesn’t have added sugar. If it does and you can’t find just pure grapefruit juice, omit the cup of sugar.
In a medium sized pot over medium heat add grapefruit juice and sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved and then add the sliced cucumber, basil and coriander. Bring up to a boil and then lower heat. Simmer for 20 minutes. Make sure you don’t over cook the cucumber as it can leave a bitter aftertaste. Once the cucumber slices become translucent, take pot off of the heat. Allow mixture to cool, strain and store in an airtight container in your fridge.
GET YOUR DRINK ON: Once you’ve made the mix, you can place it a sweet pitcher and have an assortment of spirits along side it. Build your own drink stations are efficient, but also thoughtful in that you aren’t excluding anyone who isn’t a fan of a particular spirit by pre-mixing the cocktails. Personally, I love this mixer with gin, but it pairs well with tequila, vodka, and even rye. Leave fresh basil in a mason jar with water and sliced cucumber out for garnishes. The added bonus of keeping the mixer and booze separate is that you will have something to offer your guests who don’t partake in alcoholic beverage. Just because a person doesn’t dip into the sauce does not mean they can’t also enjoy something delicious.
SIR MIX IT UP: There are so many different ways to spice up this mix. You can swap out the basil for rosemary, mint or even chervil (one of my favorite spring herbs). You can also use pink peppercorn instead of coriander. If you want to go slightly floral, you can use cardamom, or all the way floral and use dried lavender. For the more adventurous palettes, add jalapeños or a little cayenne pepper. This spice is especially tasty if this beverage is served with any grilled meat. What a pair!
PATIO PARTY: If you’re not into the idea of your guests mixing their own cocktail, this mix makes a great punch. I like to serve it with vodka and sparkling wine. You can also do a dry white wine and gin. To garnish the punch, I use my muffin tin to make large ice pucks. Add water into your muffin tin along with sliced cucumber, grapefruit peel and basil. It’s a great way to garnish and cool your punch, because you’re so fancy even your ice is fancy!
I’m looking forward to sharing some easy and delightful cocktail recipes with all of you this week! I hope that you will recreate them, and enjoy them with your loved ones as you you bask in warm weather. Here is to the patio pounders, the spring sippers and everything in between!
Cheers to the season!
Your neighborhood bar geek,