Using stuff I grew, picked, and also got from a farmers market, so everyone will think I’m cool.
Summer’s now halfway over. But plenty of hot weather, vacations, and barbecues remain. Hosting family or friends can add some low-grade stress about the food and drink menu, but the flip side is that it’s always pretty cool when you serve up some special cocktail as a featured drink.
Here’s the deal about making cocktails: lots of people think they’re half-decent bartenders. But it doesn’t have to be competitive. People want to like what someone makes them. Yet, just by using an ingredient or two that you grew in your garden , got at some pick-your-own-fruit farm, or grabbed at a farmers market or grocery store, you’ll totally go next-level with these drinks. These are all easy, but be ready with your casual response when everyone gives you big props. (“Oh, this? I thought I’d just go all mad scientist with some stuff I had on hand. No biggie”)
Having said all that, we at New England Good Life already experimented. We wound up with five easy recipes that sound impressive when you pass them off as your own ideas. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a professional mixologist to create these. The drinks are simple, and use different liquors and cater to different tastes. They also range from ones everyone knows to drinks a little out of the ordinary. So, something is sure to work for everyone
Drink #1: Basil-cucumber martini
Chill a martini glass with ice water for 5 minutes while you’re making the cocktail. Muddle basil leaves and cucumber slices with sugar in the bottom of a martini shaker. Then add vodka and sugar. Shake, don’t stir, per James Bond’s directive. Dump the water out of your martini glass and pour out your cocktail. Garnish with a cucumber slice cut to the center, so it can slide onto the rim of the glass, and then wedge the basil leave sideways between the cucumber slice and the inside of the glass.
Drink #2: Lavender-infused French 75
To make the lavender-infused simple syrup, mix the ½ cup of water with the ½ cup of sugar. Heat in a pot until the sugar dissolves. Then add 8 sprigs of lavender. Cover with the lid and cool for 20 minutes. Then strain and chill in the fridge (the longer, the better).
To make the cocktail itself, mix ½ oz. of the lavender simple syrup with 1 oz. of gin in a champagne flute. Top it off with prosecco. Hand the glasses to your friends with your pinkie out.
Drink #3: Mojito
Muddle the mint and half of a sliced-up lime in a pint glass. Once these are sufficiently mushed up and you’ve worked out your frustrations from your work week, add the rum. Then, top off with ginger ale or soda water. Garnish with a lime and mint sprig.
Drink #4: Berry-Basil Old Fashioned
Create a simple syrup by adding 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water. Heat in a pot until the sugar dissolves. Cover with the lid and cool for 20 minutes. Then chill in the fridge, or the freezer if you didn’t have as much lead time (but don’t forget about it).
Cut a piece of the lemon peel, and rub the rind on the rim of the rock glass or mason jar. In a separate glass, muddle whatever type of berries you harvested, along with the basil leaves, the bourbon, and ½ oz. of the simple syrup. Pour into the glass through a strainer to catch any muddled pieces of the berries. Throw the lemon peel in, too. Ideally, the rock glass has a single, large cube. But a mason jar with ice would fit the bourbon vibe, while earning you some bonus points for a cool glass. Add 4 dashes of blueberry bitters and give a final stir before serving.
Drink #5: Bloody Mary
Mince some oregano and basil. Add 1½ oz. of vodka to a pint glass filled with ice. Add a pinch of the minced oregano and another pinch of the minced basil. Don't lick your fingers afterwards if you're making more, as this will gross out anyone who's watching. Since everyone seems to have their own preference on horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, etc., we’ll just say to then fill with your preferred Bloody Mary mixture. Garnish with a skewer of your cherry tomato, a small (”Ciliegine”) Mozzarella ball, and a basil leaf.