The incomparable Martha Stewart was telling me the other day (well, she was on TV and I was watching – and it was a re-run, so she may not have been aware I was watching about her method of dealing with a thirsty crowd that needs liquid refreshment. Martha likes to utilize fresh summer fruits in creating pitchers of cooling libations. One sounded especially intriguing to me, so I went into my lush, weed-free, perfectly landscaped garden and picked some fresh plums, blackberries, and basil (OK – I got the first two ingredients at the supermarket – but I actually did pick my own basil).
BLACKBERRY-PLUM SMASH with BASIL
2 pitted and thinly sliced red plums
1 cup blackberries
¾ cup loosely packed basil leaves
3 Tbsp. superfine sugar
32 oz. lemon soda (Martha used San Pellegrino)
5 oz. vanilla vodka (I’m convinced Stolichnaya is the best – Martha didn’t specify)
In a bowl, muddle together the plums, blackberries, basil and sugar until the fruit has broken down.
Add in the lemon soda and stir to mix.
Strain into a tall pitcher, pressing down on the fruit solids.
Add the vodka and stir gently to combine.
Serve over ice with additional basil sprigs and berries as garnish.
Depending on the size of the crowd you plan to refresh – and the capacity of your mixing bowl – you can easily double this recipe. You could also refresh children and non-imbibers by omitting the vodka (or so I am told).
This type of drink designated a “smash” is one which typically incorporates a spirit, a sweetener, an herb, and seasonal fruit. They are typically served with plenty of ice, since summer is their season. The alcohol content is fairly low (the one above would average less than an ounce per serving, provided the serving is small and no one enjoys seconds – Martha doesn’t know my friends …).
If you Google “smash,” you will find endless combinations that all sound delicious. Many folks enjoy a slice or two of cucumber in their water bottle. That veggie, cheap at the store and available in many home gardens, is just naturally cooling and refreshing. Give it a smashing try and you may abandon plain H2O.
GIN CUCUMBER BASIL SMASH
2 oz. London Dry gin (I used my perennial fave Beefeater of course)
1 oz. carbonated water
1 sugar cube
4 basil sprigs
2 thin cucumber slices
Muddle together the sugar, mint sprigs, cucumber and water in an old-fashioned glass.
Top with crushed ice and stir.
Garnish with a fresh mint leaf or two.
This makes but one drink, however, with creativity and a bit of math you can easily prepare a pitcher for a group.
Hint: if you put this in your Nalgene it’ll look just like healthy infused water – thanks to gin being colorless.
During the recent commemoration of the Apollo moon landing I was reminded of the drink of astronauts – Tang. I hadn’t thought of this powdered orange substance in many years, and was somewhat surprised to learn it is still around. Naturally, enterprising folks have found ways to make this 60s breakfast drink into cocktails. I couldn’t pass up this one solely due to the name.
1 shot banana liqueur
1 shot coconut rum
1 shot white rum
3 shots orange juice
2 shots pineapple juice
3 tablespoons Tang
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Put everything in a blender with a cup of ice and blend until a slushy consistency. Add more ice as needed.
This not only serves as a tribute to our intrepid astronauts, but is a salute to our chimp in space. Ham successfully blasted into space in 1961, and returned to earth safe and sound, paving the way for Alan Shepherd’s suborbital flight three months later. It also ties in with the original theme of the column, as I suspect drinking much of this would leave one “smashed.”
With all these cooling cocktails you might be craving a delicious slightly spicy snack. I sure was and headed over to Sugarbaker’s in Brunswick, for their excellent cheese straws. They’re the best I’ve ever had – of course I’ve not enjoyed Martha’s (yet).