Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dog Days Refreshing Cocktails

With August in full swing and it being one of the hottest, driest summers here in the U.S. Midwest, I've been serving up a number of new cocktails.  Nothing is quite so refreshing in the sultry dog days of summer than a chilled cocktail along side a savory appetizer.  So if you are in need of a little summer refreshment, consider the following.

Blackberry Mojitos
If you are like me, you have a cupboard full of different alcohols that were purchased for a specific recipe.  Blackberry brandy is one of those in my cupboard.  So with some leftover blackberries from a dessert recipe and some inspiration from a fellow food blogger, I created this recipe.  Simply muddle (crush) the blackberries with some sugar, a few mint leaves and a bit of lemon juice to combine the flavors and dissolve the sugar.  Add equal parts blackberry brandy and rum (I used one shot of each per person) and stir.  Separate into rock glasses add ice and fill with tonic water.  Give it a quick stir and garnish.  For those that don't like solids in their cocktail, strain the muddled mixture when pouring into your glass.

Pimm's No. 1 Cup

With the Olympics in London this summer, and as Kevin and I had visited England for 10 days just prior to Queen's Jubilee, we have very much enjoyed this famous British cocktail, evening bringing a commemorative bottle home with us.  It's a very simple quick cocktail to prepare if you have some fresh fruit and the Pimm's on hand.  Pimm's is a gin-based drink containing quinine and a secret mixture of herbs.  This was originally sold as an aid to digestion but now has become part of the local culture.  We first enjoyed a Pimm's fruit cup while strolling the beautiful lawns of the Glyndebourne Opera Festival.  Pimm's No. 1 is usually mixed with "English-style" (clear and carbonated) lemonade, as well as various chopped fresh ingredients, particularly apples, cucumber, oranges, lemons, strawberry, and mint. Ginger ale is a common substitute for lemonade but you can also use any lemon-lime soda.  While you can use any proportion of ingredients, keep in mind that Pimm's is 25 percent alcohol by volume, so a little goes a long way.  Nothing tastes better on a hot summer day!


The national cocktail of Brazil, we picked up this little gem while vacationing in Rio.  There are many varieties of this cocktail, although the classic is made with made cachaça (sugar cane rum), sugar (preferably raw sugar) and lime.  Place the cut (and seeded) limes in your glass with the sugar and muddle (crush) to release juices and dissolve the sugar.  Fill the glass with ice and pour the cachaça over the ice.  Stir and serve.

As I find it difficult to get a good quality cachaça, I instead typically make the variation on the drink called a Caipiríssima.  It is a caipirinha made with rum instead of cachaça, and for this I often use a dark rum, Cruzan being my favorite.  The technique is the same but I do add some tonic water which makes the cocktail more refreshing.  If you can get a piece of sugar cane to use as the stir, so much the better!

Melon Rumballa

I came across the Melon Rumballa on Pinterest and I've been enjoying variations on a theme all summer long.  The original recipe by Lauren Fister is quite good.  But for my cocktail schedule, the process is too long and complex for most afternoons.  So below I give you my favorite two quick recipes for this great summer drink. 
Prepare ahead note:  Make melon balls (using the small side of the melon ball tool) in advance using multiple melon varieties.  Place the balls in a zippered freezer bag and freeze them in a single layer.  Then you can take them out and drop them into the drinks quickly as you need them.

In a rocks glass, place six small melon balls.  Add the fresh squeezed juice of one quarter lime (not more).  Add one shot coconut rum or one shot watermelon vodka, plus a half shot of plain unflavored white rum.  Add a sprig of fresh mint, two ice cubes and top up the glass with tonic water.  Use a sturdy cocktail pick to stir.  Guests will use the pick to spear and eat the melon balls as they thaw.  Refreshing!

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