Photo by Raoel Croes on Unsplash
By Liz Crowe
Ah, summer. But yet…not, somehow.
We’ve all heard the phrase “the new normal” so many times by now, I won’t beat you over the head with it. But yeah. It’s new, alright. And whether we like it or not, it’s definitely going to be our normal going forward.
Right around mid-March of this year, my resolutions to not drink alcohol during the week went sailing right out the window along with basketball tournament season and my daughter’s college graduation ceremony. I have little to complain about as my household remains supported by a good salary, thank heavens, and no one in my immediate or extended family or friend circle has been sickened, other than by extreme ennui and frustration.
But yeah. When all that went down and I was staring down the barrel of terror at getting sick combined with the reality of being shut in for goodness knows how long, I decided to have an impromptu clean-out-the-wine-cellar and/or liquor cabinet party. It lasted a few weeks. And I become intimately reacquainted with how it feels to suffer from hangovers.
I can’t recommend it (the hangover part), but between trying to arrange a relocation to a new state, closing on a house, getting my current abode showing-ready, managing the expectations of everyone around me as well as making three meals a day for people who were not supposed to be in my house 24/7 — well, I turned to booze like a lot of folks did. And the smart-alec leaving AA flyers on my glass-choked recycling bin didn’t help.
In uncertain times, like the ones we currently inhabit, alcohol can sometimes soothe the nerves. As a professional, I’ll point out one of our earlier discussions about avoiding hangovers (hydrating, not mixing certain types of booze in one session). I will also remind you that I am in no way disparaging or poking fun at anyone who has a serious alcohol problem. I lost a family member to alcoholism. It’s not a joke. However, circling back to “these uncertain times,” I’m going to take the liberty of making a few about how we are all going to emerge from quarantine (safely), blinking like moles in the bright light, bloated from booze and carbs, and headed straight for divorce court. Again, please don’t take offense. I’m kidding. But only sorta.
So back to these “uncertain times.” I’m going to recommend that you fill your “quarantini” glass this summer with a classic. Me? I’m doing gin and tonics with plenty of fresh lime. But let’s explore some of the other delicious options for that cruise you might take around your backyard, shall we?
Firstly, I’ll recommend the classic Pimm’s Cup. “Pimm’s” is a gin-based liqueur first produced in 1823 by (who else?) James Pimm and served at his oyster bar in London. At 25% ABV, it’s not as strong as some liquor, but it’s a summer classic, ergo you tend to drink it outdoors in the sun, where you might dehydrate faster, therefore it feels like it gets you pretty plastered. I mean, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it anyway.
I discovered this delicious concoction while living in Essex, England and have converted many skeptics into new fans as I tend to bring it to almost every summer cookout. It’s gin-based, but light brown/auburn in color thanks to the super-secret combination of warm spices and caramelized oranges added to it. These ingredients give bitter liquor a smoothness and sweetness you don’t normally associate with a gin drink. It’s also reminiscent of sweet tea with a kick, when served properly. And you know I’m a stickler for these classic drinks being served the right way.
You can find it in almost any liquor store or grocery liquor aisle. If it’s being displayed the right way it’s in the gin section, but you’re just as likely to see it with the other liqueurs. Making a Pimm’s Cup is easy, if a little labor-intensive. Get yourself a highball glass (the tall, slender one) and fill with ice. Pour in two ounces of Pimm’s, then three ounces of “lemonade” (which is British for “lemon-lime soda” like Sprite, 7Up, Sierra Mist, whatever). You can also give it a bit of a different flavor by using ginger ale. Stir. Then you shove one slice each of orange, cucumber, strawberry, and a sprig of mint into the glass. Voilà! One of the best summer cocktails you’ll ever encounter! Some recipes call for other fruit, like apples, lemons, and limes. Go for it. But it’s even prettier if you make a batch in a big glass pitcher and use a lot of fruit.
Rum is not on my top five list of favorite liquors, I’ll admit. It’s down around the bottom with the tequila. But as with tequila, there is one drink with rum I do enjoy — the mojito, or
as I like to call it, the “Rum Mint Julep.” They are labor-intensive but it’s a labor of love, so why not?
- 12 fresh mint sprigs, each about 8 inches long,
plus 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 cup light rum
- Sugar and 1 or 2 lime wedges for coating rims
- Ice cubes as needed
- 2 cups club soda
For the garnish:
- 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
- 4 small fresh mint sprigs
- In a bowl, using the back of a wooden spoon, crush together the mint sprigs, sugar, and lime juice. Pour in the rum, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or even overnight.
Spread a layer of sugar on a small, flat plate. Working with 1 glass at a time, run a lime wedge around the edge of the glass to moisten it, then dip the rim into the sugar to coat it evenly. Put the glasses in the freezer to chill for at least 15 minutes.
When ready to make the mojitos, fill a blender halfway with ice cubes. Pour the rum mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the blender. Add the club soda and the 1/2 cup mint leaves and puree until well blended.
Divide the mixture evenly among the chilled glasses. Garnish each glass with a lime wedge and a mint sprig.
One of the best classics around is a Tom Collins — but NOT the kind you get with the commercial Tom Collins Mix, which makes you think that this delicious summer drink is made with a lot of chemicals. But first, a bit of history. Did you know this drink was originally called a “John Collins” when it was invented in London in the 1860s and was named after the restaurant where it was first concocted?
Back in 1874, there was a joke in New York that involved telling someone that a man named Tom Collins was saying bad things about them. The conversation would start by someone asking, “Have you seen Tom Collins?” and go on to tell the person that he was in a nearby bar or other business talking badly about them, which would presumably upset the person who’d then go try and find this Tom Collins jerk. The joke gained notoriety and became known as the Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. The first Tom Collins cocktail recipe was printed in the 1876 book The Bartenders’ Guide by Jerry Thomas, known as the father of American mixology, who changed the name to “Tom” to honor this hoax.
It’s keeping with a summer drink theme in that it includes sugar water as an ingredient. Plus, it has its very own glassware, similar to a highball but a bit taller, sometimes with rounded sides.
- 1 1/2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce lemon juice (fresh is best)
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup (sugar water)
- 3 ounces club soda (or enough to fill)
For the garnish:
- 1 maraschino cherry
- 1 lemon or orange slice
- In a collins glass filled with ice cubes, pour the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Stir thoroughly. Top with club soda. Garnish with a cherry and an orange or lemon slice. You can pin the cherry to the citrus fruit using a cocktail pick and create a garnish known as a “flag” as well.
I hope that this version of Booze 101 with Liz finds you and yours well, managing your way through these challenging times, and ready for your next drink, be it in a glass that includes alcohol or not.
Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, brewery founder, beer and wine consultant, and avid sports fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales, public relations, and fundraising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse, all of which provide ongoing idea fodder for novels and other projects. She helped found and is the current president of Fermenta Michigan, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and employment of women in the fermented industries.
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