Pink Grapefruit Saketini


Somewhere around 6 pm on a summer day – or any day –  is when I get thirsty for a cold grown-up drink- I usually stick to chilled rosè or light refreshing whites like pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, and my recent favorite, gruner veltliner, to sip while I cook dinner. It’s a relaxing ritual, and I find myself looking forward to it daily – sometimes a little too much if you know what I mean  (and I think you do!).

I’ve been known to sling cold summer cocktails every now and again, though, and the other night I decided to experiment with sake.

I like the idea of using sake in place of a hard liquor like vodka or gin – I’d rather drink a cocktail without feeling the toxic effects of high-proof alcohol, which is sometimes too much for me.  Sake can contain a little more alcohol than wine; about 15% or more by volume, but that’s still less than distilled liquor.

Sake also has a lightly sweet, delicate nature that plays nicely with things you might want to mix it with, like fruit juices, liqueurs and fresh herbal infusions.

I wouldn’t use an expensive, premium sake to make a cocktail, since you’ll be missing its finer qualities, not to mention that the sake purists out there would cringe – just use what you can find for less than $20 a bottle.


Rosemary Lemon-Ginger Vodka Spritzers

A beachside refresher

Our vacation got off to a tremulous start – what with the 5.2 earthquake and all – but we managed to get everyone safely in the car and on the road to Rosemary Beach, our almost impossibly lovely destination on the Florida Panhandle.

This place is one of those scarily-proportioned planned “towns” that seem to spring up out of the swamp land as if by magic. What I mean by scary is just the absolute perfectness about it all; it’s so self-contained and pristinely designed that it just doesn’t seem real.

And, in keeping with the Mediterranean theme of the architecture, there are rosemary bushes springing up everywhere. I don’t think that rosemary would grow here as a native plant, but it does seem to thrive in this climate, because the plants seem to grow into large hedgerows.

Rosemary might just be my favorite herb and every spring I put out numerous small plants in my garden. I always hope that one or two of them will make it through the winter, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Seeing them casually growing here to the size of happy Great Danes kind of overwhelms me. I’m starting to feel like cooking something. Or maybe I’m just thirsty.

We came up with this refreshing cocktail recipe while lounging on the beach yesterday. It’s pretty good. Might be just about time for another!

Rosemary Lemon-Ginger Vodka Spritzers

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup peeled, chopped fresh ginger
2 large springs rosemary, plus more to garnish
Pinch of fine sea salt (seems weird, but it really makes the syrup pop with flavor)
Fresh lemons, halved
Ice cold vodka
Chilled sparkling water

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the ginger, rosemary and salt; remove from the heat and let steep for about 10 minutes. Strain the syrup and chill.

To make a drink, squeeze fresh lemon juice to taste into a glass filled with ice. Pour in 2 ounces vodka and about 1 tablespoon syrup. Top off with the sparkling water. Take a sip, and add more syrup if you like. Add a rosemary spring for garnish. Cheers!

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Happy Hour: Passion Fruit Caipiroska

Cool Cocktail

Tomorrow is the last day of school, the community pool is open for the season, and I have my first dozen mosquito bites. Summer’s here!

I made a big batch of these delicious Brazilian-style summer drinks for a Memorial Day bash last weekend. I only allowed myself one, but I’ve been thirsty for another. Passion fruit has an intensely tropical candy-like taste that I love, and this drink is a perfect foil for the vodka – you don’t really taste it. Which can be a problem. Sometimes.

Have one or two in the backyard while fending off those bloodthirsty insects, and you’ll be a happy camper.

Passion Fruit Caipiroskas
makes 6 drinks
from Food and Wine magazine, June 2006

3/4 cup frozen pure passion fruit puree, thawed (Note: I use Goya brand frozen fruit pulp from my international grocer)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
1 1/4 cups vodka
Garnish: 6 thin lime slices

Stir together all ingredients in a pitcher until sugar is dissolved.
Pour over crushed ice. Garnish with a lime slice.

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