A few months back, while in Atlanta working on a really fun story, I had a fantastic meal at this airy Persian spot called Rumi’s Kitchen. I am still dreaming of their perfect citrus-and-saffron-brined chicken kabobs, but so far my attempts at recreating them have been utter flops. Thankfully I’ve had better luck bringing to life the delightfully refreshing tarragon lemonade I sipped alongside those kabobs. Rumi’s is vodka based, but when I stumbled across this gin version in the June issue of Bon Appétit I had a feeling it would be a more than worthy stunt double. In fact, this pitcher has become the summer dinner party scene-stealer around here.
Sparkling Tarragon Lemonade from Bon Appétit, June 2013
10 large sprigs tarragon 2 lemons, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons sugar 3/4 cup gin 3/4 cup St-Germain elderflower liqueur 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 12 ounces club soda or sparkling water
Muddle tarragon, lemon slices, and sugar in a large pitcher. Add gin, St-Germain, lemon juice, club soda, and ice. Stir and serve over ice with additional lemon slices and a sprig of tarragon (plus a straw if you don’t care to have your nose tickled by those licorice-scented leaves).
The Italian theme continues. A few of my friends are in Italy this week, and the social media trail of their adventures yielded this refresher. Here’s how it went down: They toured the Martini headquarters in Turin, and among the exuberant images (do you not adore Instagram?) was a pale and bubbly something on ice with a sprig of mint and a lime wedge that just trilled ‘summer evening in a glass.’ Wanting to be with them in spirit(s), I googled “Martini Royale,” cracked open the bottle of Dolin Blanc I’d ordered for but hadn’t yet tried in this sipper over here, pinched a sprig of mint from the pot that’s wildly overflowing on the patio, and enjoyed a little virtual getaway.
2 oz. Bianco or blanc vermouth* 2 oz. Prosecco 2 lime (or lemon) wedges Mint sprig
Fill a large glass with ice, add the vermouth and prosecco, squeeze in one lime wedge, and stir gently. Garnish with the second lime wedge and mint sprig.
* This is ‘white’ vermouth, not the more common dry variety. It has a slightly sweet, floral flavor, and I wish I’d discovered it earlier. The branded Martini Royale calls for Martini Bianco vermouth (they even bottle a pre-mixed Royale cocktail product), but I didn’t have that on hand (nor have I seen it locally). This seemed the perfect excuse to finally open that bottle of Dolin Blanc. And it was.
PS — The Bormioli Rocco “Murano” cobalt tumbler seemed an appropriate vessel for this one. Find them here or here.
Back in May, my soul sister (and style and entertaining icon) Annette Joseph hosted a little Cinco de Mayo party at her place in Italy and served margaritas made with limoncello. Holy citron! When I heard about them, I had to get to mixing. Her instructions were to use limoncello in place of the Cointreau, and with that starting point I arrived at version one. Annette and I made them together on Memorial Day and she had a brilliant modification in mind: adding a splash of Mexican Fresca (which, to my great surprise, has real sugar and pink grapefruit juice — it is not an artificial diet soda and it’s worth checking out). That’s version two, scaled for a crowd and lightened a tad by the soda, perfect for poolside sipping.
Version one: 1 1/2 oz. premium tequila 1 oz. decent limoncello* 1 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice 1/2 oz. simple syrup pinch of sea salt
Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker; shake and strain into an ice-filled glass (with or without salted rim).
Version two, for a small crowd: 1 cup añejo tequila 1 cup fresh lime juice 2/3 – 3/4 cup decent limoncello* 12 oz. bottle of Mexican Fresca (or other grapefruit soda, such as Jarritos Toronja or San Pellegrino Pompelmo if you want to go with the Italian theme here)
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, stir gently, and pour into glasses prepped with ice and a lime wheel or two. For best results, pre-chill all the ingredients and once mixed nestle the pitcher into a container of ice (or the fridge) to keep things cool.
* I used Caravella, which is tasty and seems to be pretty easy to find. If you happen to be in the French/Italian Riviera, do yourself a favor and stop into Au Pays du Citron in Menton, France, and check out the insanely delicious cellos Annette turned me on to. The citron vert was my favorite.
I realize this may be completely unfair. That you may not be able to find any kumquats now that we’ve hit summer’s full stride. For this, I apologize. However, if you can no longer find these glorious little citrus nuggets in markets, go make yourself a note, bookmark this page at Urban Comfort, and please, please remember to buy a couple of pounds of kumquats the next time you see them. Then make yourself a batch of this heavenly cello—it’s complex and pleasingly tart (read: not sickly sweet, or just as sweet as you like it because you get to decide how much sugar to add). Kumquat cello, meet my weeble-wobble shot glasses, or a little scoop of ice cream, or that flute of champagne, or maybe a late afternoon glass of crushed ice and soda, or…
I’ve been making a lot of chimichurri lately—wow, is this stuff magic on grilled flank steak, steamed beans, corn on the cob, bread, just about anything—which means there’s been a lot of cilantro in the kitchen. When the r.s.v.p. column in Bon Appetit’s June issue highlighted this cilantro martini from The Modern in New York, it seemed like the perfect way to use a leftover half bunch of cilantro. (Seriously, those bunches never look as big in the store, and I swear it must expand in the fridge, just laughing at my lack of imagination and ability to judge volume.)
If you don’t like cilantro or gin martinis, this isn’t the drink for you. For the rest of us, it’s an intriguing change of pace. But don’t go into it thinking this is a light, herbal sipper—we’re still talking about 3 ounces of nearly straight gin here.
2 Tbsp. sugar 1 750ml bottle gin (Bon App recommends Tanqueray) 3 cups fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
Combine sugar and 2 Tbsp. hot water in a large jar, cover, and shake until sugar is dissolved. Add gin, cilantro, and lime juice. (Hang onto the gin bottle to store the final product.) Cover and chill 2 days. Strain into a bowl or large measuring cup; discard cilantro. Pour mixture back into the gin bottle, but for heaven’s sake think more clearly than I did and don’t blindly pour ALL of it into the funnel—physics and common sense should tell you it won’t all fit after you’ve added the sugar and extra liquid. Store chilled for up to a month. Makes 8 servings.
To serve: Pour 3 ounces of the infused gin into an ice-filled shaker and shake until well chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a lime twist or round.
It is now officially the summer of margarita variations. And mezcal. And rhubarb. Please, please can we extend this lovely stem’s season? Because now that I’ve discovered rhubarb syrups and this frosty, salted glass of three-ingredient goodness, I never want to be without.
Run, don’t walk to the nearest market for a bundle of rhubarb. And get yourself a bottle of good mezcal—not the one with the worm; you want something with a roast-y smoky depth and maybe a little desert-tanned-skin-and-stubble cowboy vibe. I’m still loving the Puritita, myself. Its smokiness is heavenly with the rhubarb syrup and lime.
And don’t—Do. Not.—skip the salt, it’s part of the balance. (OK, so really we’re talking 4-ingredient goodness.) Right now I’m partial to this Bolivian rose salt. I do not care if someone actually proves that all salt tastes the same, if nothing else I like the aesthetic variations, and this one is pink to match the drink’s hue. So, there.
Rim the edge of a glass with salt (if you’re like me, maybe throw a few crystals into the glass, too), and fill with ice. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into glass, and just try to keep yourself from making another.
Rhubarb Simple Syrup Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a slight boil. Add 1 cup chopped rhubarb and simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool in pan, strain, and store in the refrigerator.
I love Pinterest. One of your foodie friends pins an intriguing collage of drink shots labeled "16 Refreshing Rhubarb Cocktails" and suddenly you’ve fallen down a BuzzFeed rabbit hole of deliciousness and you find yourself making not one but two kinds of rhubarb syrup—oh my!
First up was this rhubarb, rosemary, and grapefruit number from bowllicking.com. As if the combo of rosemary and grapefruit weren’t already a perfect lure, how can you resist this site’s name? There may be no need for such vessel here, but I’d still declare this sip bowl-licking good. Plus, I love the author’s accompanying conclusion on juice cleanses: “I think I’ll stick to chewing my food.” Leave the drinking for cocktails.
1.5 oz. fresh grapefruit juice 1.5 oz. rosemary rhubarb syrup 1.5 oz. gin (I liked Bombay Sapphire for this one.)
Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into an ice-filled glass.
Rosemary Rhubarb Syrup: In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup rhubarb cut into 1/2-inch chunks, 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 1/2 cup water, and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes, until the rhubarb has broken down completely. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing the pulp to extract the syrup. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator. (Original recipe calls for twice this volume, which will give you lots of syrup to enjoy, but since I was making two different kinds and wanted some variety, I made a smaller batch.)
Late to the party: Finally made this season’s first trip to the farmers’ market this morning. Thankfully, there were still a few bunches of rhubarb to be had, because this rosemary-rhubarb syrup is what was happening today. Stay tuned for what became of it…
Ginger Lemon Drop inspired by The Cluny, Cafe Cluny, NYC
1 1/2 oz. citron vodka 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice 3/4 oz. simple syrup Micro-grated fresh or fresh-frozen ginger (about 1/4 teaspoon or so)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled. Strain into a martini glass and micro-grate a little ginger on top.
Note on the ginger: My favorite way to store and use fresh ginger is to peel 2-inch lengths and store them, wrapped and sealed, in the freezer, then grate them with a microplane tool. The ginger is much easier to grate this way and doesn’t wither and go bad so quickly. It also gives you these very small and delicate snowflakes of ginger that work well in cocktails.
Of Fried Potatoes and Orange Fizz: The Aperol Spritz
I’ve been to Italy three times (lucky girl, I know), and there are two things I remember most—aperitivi, and potato chips. To be fair, potato chips came first and are also a key ingredient in my aperitivi memories, so it’s possible all I really remember is potato chips. Seriously, during my first trip to Rome we sought out this tiny little restaurant recommended by Frommer’s, Ristorante del Pollaro, and served alongside the lovely veal was a heaping bowl of homemade potato chips—legitimized, elevated as part of a delicious multi-course meal—I was in heaven. Many years later when I returned to Italy, I was delighted by the whole aperitivi concept of drinks and little nibbles enjoyed before dinner. I’m quite certain that a large part of the charm was the nearly ubiquitous bowl of potato chips. Don’t get me wrong, I like cocktail nuts, and pretty little crudité, but in my heart of hearts I really want some salty fried potatoes with my drink. And after my last trip to the Italian Riviera, if it’s summer or I’m sitting near water and wishing it were summer, this is probably the drink I’d like to have with those potatoes.
2 oz. Aperol 3 oz. Prosecco Splash soda water Slice of orange
In a large wine glass, combine ice, Aperol, and Prosecco. Top with a splash of soda and slice of orange. (I like a generous splash of soda, as one of the attractions of this one is that it’s relatively low in alcohol. Some guys have ‘lawn beers’, I have the Aperol Spritz after weeding my little vegetable beds.).