On homemade punch, herb gardens & summer solstice Tuesday, Jul 6 2010 

In lieu of a regular cocktail club meeting in June, the beau & I hosted our annual Summer Solstice Soiree on the first Saturday of summer. No one partook in croquet this year, perhaps because they were too busy enjoying the homemade punch. One friend, who’s opinion of cocktails I hold in very high regard, said it was the best punch he’d ever tasted. Several others concurred and asked for the recipe.

If I do say so myself, it was quite delicious so I’m happy to share it. Here’s what I came up with after a bit of experimentation a few days prior (yes, it’s an original recipe):

photo by linsey herman

Jardín Party Punch
Makes approximately 4 liters of punch (after a bit of inevitable ice melt), or two large punch bowls’ worth, with room for ice.

750 ml Hornitos plata tequila (or your favorite blanco or plata tequila) + 1/2 cup standard black peppercorn
750 ml VeeV açai spirit
750 ml St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1.5 liters tart sparkling lemonade (doesn’t matter what brand, as long as it’s tart)
2 lemons

Prep: Chill bottles overnight before serving. To make the perfect ice ring, fill a clean bundt pan halfway with water. Chill for 3-4 hours; avoid over-freezing.

To make black pepper-infused tequila: Pour a small amount of tequila out from its bottle to make room for pepper. Using a funnel, transfer approx. 1/2 cup black peppercorn into bottle until full. If more will fit, go for it. Seal and let stand in a cool, dry place for at least 24 hours.

To make punch: Remove bundt pan from freezer and with warm hands, gently squeeze the bottom of the pan, working your way around its edges, until ice ring begins to shift and ease from the pan. Cover pan with a clean, flat surface (I used a cutting board) and gently turn the pan over to remove and transfer your perfect ice ring to punch bowl.

In a large stock pot, pour strained black pepper-infused tequila, VeeV and St-Germain and stir until blended. Pour half of liquid mixture into punch bowl over ice ring. Pour approximately 750 ml chilled, tart sparkling lemonade into punch bowl. Cut lemons into quarter-inch slices and float them along the surface of your punch. Serve with a ladle into punch or rocks glasses, with additional ice on the side, and prepare yourself for compliments.

photo by linsey herman

I might have to make it again sometime.

Also served: A pitcher (or two) of Beefeater Summer Edition gin with tonic water (2 to 1 ratio), on ice with cut lemons, limes and fresh blueberries.

Finally, as one guest remarked, the yard looks lovelier every year (!), which is such a nice compliment especially since we’ve been putting a lot of work into it over the past few months. Among the improvements to the yard this year are more herbs than usual, a few of which are especially nice for cocktails:

* mint, planted in the ground as opposed to a container, which in years past has stifled its growth, I think. I’ve always gone with spearmint as it’s fairly hearty, and is super-duper fragrant, and also produces fairly large leaves which are nice for muddling.
* basil, planted in containers with herbs with similar watering demands (e.g., regularly moist soil). We’ve been harvesting fairly regularly — by the leaf, not the stem — as basil is really, really nice in gimlets. (Don’t knock it till you try it.)
* rosemary, planted in the ground near the mint. I usually use it just for cooking, but inspired by The Whistler‘s Rosemary Collins, which only recently left the cocktail menu after a good long run, I might try adding some rosemary to gin drinks here and there to see what happens.

Happy summer, and watch this space for details on July’s regularly scheduled Cocktail Club. I believe Mr. David will be hosting, and the theme is tequila!

Giddy for gin Thursday, Jul 1 2010 

As you might have gleaned from the fact that every other recipe posted here involves gin, it’s a favorite of mine. And there’s a lot to learn. Thanks to a story (and concurrent CPCC meeting) I did a few months back on Old Tom gin, I’ve since been delving deeper into the varietals and history of each, which has proven challenging considering  there doesn’t really exist any kind of comprehensive glossary of all of the various styles of gin…until now!

Voila: “Know your gins,” which appeared in the Tribune’s Good Eating section last week alongside a lovely roundup of summer gin cocktails by my colleague, food and wine critic Bill Daley.

The glossary has since been reprinted in other papers around the country, and I haven’t yet had anyone challenge my definitions (which were derived over the course of several months of research, interviews and tastings).

While I purposefully didn’t play favorites in the glossary, as it was written for general reference purposes, this blog is precisely the venue for such opinions. Ahem:

* favorite gin in a Tom Collins: Hayman’s Old Tom
* favorite gin in a Negroni: Ransom Old Tom
* favorite for mixing gin & tonics: Death’s Door or Bombay Sapphire
* favorite for martinis, or even neat: North Shore Distiller’s Gin No. 6
* favorite-smelling gin: Small’s gin
* favorite label: Beefeater Summer Edition (featuring an old-timey man playing croquet!)

All of this means that I am now in dire need of updating the home bar inventory, which I hope to get to this weekend, as well as a post from the third annual Summer Solstice Soiree. Soon!

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