UNITED STATES—Whenever I visit a new restaurant, I order a specialty drink, to experience as many different flavors as I can. I’ve tried variations on mojitos, martinis, whiskey sours, and vodka tonics, with flavors such as pomegranate, cucumber, and rosemary. On my birthday a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to eat at a popular restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, located on the 71st floor. The views were fantastic, and the course menu was unique. But one of the most memorable parts of the meal was the cocktail I ordered—a medley of vodka, lime, and jalapeño. The spicy and tart flavors melded so well, I finished my glass and immediately requested another. I found myself wondering if I could recreate the concoction at home.
I finally purchased a cocktail shaker and a muddler to try my hand at some of the more delicious drinks I’ve come across. More often than not, my technique involves throwing together different fruits, shaking them up with some simple syrup and my alcohol of choice, and hoping my taste buds won’t shrivel in disappointment. Lately, though, I’ve been attempting to follow actual recipes and measurements. I plan on implementing as many seasonal flavors as I can before they disappear.
What? Fresh, juicy watermelon and rosé? I recently began appreciating rosé more, after sticking to my tried and true reds and whites for years. This Watermelon Frosé combines the sweet flavors of one of my favorite summer fruits with the light taste of rosé. The wine is poured into ice cube trays and frozen the night before. Watermelon syrup is made from pureed watermelon cubes, heated with sugar. The syrup is then blended with the frozen rosé cubes, more fresh juice, and some lime until it reaches a slushy-like consistency.
I’m a huge fan of carrot juice and carrot orange juice, so it’s safe to say I’ll probably love this Tequila Sunset at first sip. The sweet carrot melds well with the tart orange and juicy mango. A splash of sparkling water adds a crisp edge, and two ounces of tequila round the flavors out nicely. When served in champagne flutes, these cocktails are nothing but classy. The addition of fruits and vegetables makes them healthy, right? Right.
As the years pass, I find that I prefer simple, straightforward flavors to overly sweet or syrup-laden drinks that mask the flavor of the ingredients. This Cucumber Cooler seems to fit the bill, with the light flavors of lime, mint, and cucumber. Mint leaves and lime slices are muddled and shaken with cucumber slices, with sugar being optional. The mixture is poured over gin and topped with tonic water. A lovely twist on the classic gin and tonic!
I used to avoid blackberries. Something about their tartness and the crunch of seeds between my teeth turned me off. But just the other week, I tried some ripe berries that were plump and sweet, and I enjoyed the flavor far more than I used to. Maybe the trick is to get them in season. For this Blackberry Mint Julep, blackberries and mint are muddled in a shaker, then shaken with bourbon whiskey and homemade simple syrup. This is a simple and tasty way to use up those leftover berries.
We’re slightly past strawberry season, but I have a feeling this Red and Black Cocktail will still be as delicious with strawberries that aren’t in season. The not-so-secret ingredient: black pepper. A simple syrup is made with water, sugar, and coarsely ground black pepper, and then strained. Muddled strawberries are combined with the syrup, lime juice, and tequila. Finally, the rims of the glasses are coated with a mixture of sugar, salt, and finely ground pepper, before the drinks are poured in.
I started eating blueberries by the handful years ago when I learned of their nutrients, antioxidants, and disease-fighting properties. When in season, they become sweet and plump and easy to eat. They go well in almost everything: oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, muffins, scones, and now, these Blueberry Mojitos. Blueberries are muddled or blended, then combined with muddled mint leaves, sugar, rum, and lime juice. The mixture is poured over club soda and ice, then gently stirred.
Living alone, I can never finish any of the fruits I buy; I always toss the moldy leftovers or freeze them in plastic bags. These easy drink recipes are a great way to use up leftovers. I now have an excuse to host more get-togethers with friends or simply whip up a cocktail for myself to unwind after a productive week.