As I watched yet another thunderstorm roll in and another deluge begin, I commented to my wife, somewhat morosely, that I could hear the grass growing. And not just growing but snickering as well – knowing full well I couldn’t drag the mower out until at least a few hours of drying sunshine had passed.
Once the lawn is mowed (and weeds eaten and any debris blown away) there is nothing as refreshing as an ice-cold beverage. And while I usually quench my initial thirst with good ol’ H20, I then proceed to reward myself with an adult beverage.
I love the name of this one as it truly does embody the season.
SUMMER IN A GLASS
• ½ oz. gin (I used Ford’s)
• 1 oz. fresh lime juice
• ½ oz. Suze
• ½ oz. simple syrup
• 3 cucumber wheels
• Club soda
Muddle 1 cucumber wheel along with the other ingredients in a shaker. Add ice and shake until icy. Strain into a Collins glass, top with club soda, and garnish with the remaining cucumber and a shake of freshly-cracked black pepper.
This herbal and tangy concoction really hits the spot on a blisteringly hot afternoon, and as it’s low in alcohol you can enjoy a couple. Now about that third ingredient, Suze. First, it’s pronounced Soo-Zee (like Suze Ormon, the personal finance guru). It’s a pleasingly bitter aperitif from the Pyrenees region of France. The core of the liqueur is gentian root. The story goes that the recipe was developed by Fernand Moreaux, who inherited a family distillery on the brink of bankruptcy.
He had an inspired idea to create an aperitif that was unique; rather than being based on wine it would be built around a plant – gentian. The root of the gentian plant has been used for centuries as a medicine – curing digestive ailments, fevers, breathing problems, and even as a poison antidote. This made it the perfect base for an aperitif, n’est-çe pas?
Introduced at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair it was an immediate success. Soon the sidewalk cafes of the City of Light were festooned with signature orange umbrellas bearing the Suze logo. The name incidentally was purloined from M. Moreaux’s sister-in-law after a corporate brainstorming session produced nothing more unique.
A few days ago I was once again invited to serve as celebrity bartender at Vitality Living. Their definition of “celebrity” obviously, is quite loose. The folks there do enjoy seeing a different face and enjoying a cocktail rather than their usual 4 o’clock wine. The libation this month was the sinfully delicious mojito. The standard version is what I prepared for the Vitality crowd, but later, at home, I used my leftover mint syrup to whip up a version with added blueberries. What’s not to love about that?
First, make a batch of mint-infused simple syrup. Simply add equal parts of sugar and water to a sauce pan and heat until sugar dissolves. Then, off the heat, add in a big bunch of mint. Stir well and muddle the leaves to release the mint oil (bonus: this will smell incredible). Strain mixture to remove leaves and chill before using.
• 8 blueberries (plus more for garnish)
• 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
• 2 Tbsp. mint syrup (or to taste)
• ¼ cup white rum
• Club soda
Muddle the blueberries in a shaker with the lime juice and syrup. Add the rum. Shake with ice until chilled. Strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with a few blueberries on a cocktail skewer and drop in a thin slice of lime.
Either of these creations is perfect when enjoyed in the shade, preferably in a hammock or cushioned lounger. And, of course, after the yard work is complete.