By Emily Valentine (@ebvalentine)
THE BOOZE BIN
Red wine is generally my beverage of choice come cocktail hour, but with temperatures at 105 degrees and humidity thick enough to slice, my go-to glass of vin rouge is holding far less appeal.
So I’ve taken advantage of these sweltering summer months as an opportunity to explore some more refreshing cocktail combinations and examine the latest beverage trends.
Since I addressed the growing popularity of dry rosé in a blog post last month, I’ve watched my peers reach for the pink stuff weekend after weekend, sometimes sipping it on its own, and sometimes dressing it up by adding a few sliced cherries or strawberries. And, like Megan Headley of Cville’s Working Pour, I’ve encountered St. Germain in scores of summer cocktails, most recently in a coupe de champagne at a casual dinner party.
Here are a few other notables from my (oh-so-grueling) summer research:
Blueberry Applejack Martini
I witnessed the invention of this cocktail during an innovation session at the Culinary Institute of America sponsored by our client, the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. The tasty combination of apple-based spirits, blueberry juice and fresh basil speaks to two current beverage trends:
1) Re-emergence of historical cocktail ingredients – Applejack was a well known “cider spirit” throughout growing America, and both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were big fans. Oft used as currency to pay New Jersey road workers in the colonial era, it acquired the nickname Jersey Lighting – a moniker well-matched for blueberries, which were first cultivated in Whitesbog, NJ and continue to dominate the state’s agriculture.
2) Interest in alternative sweeteners – Mixologists are responding to consumers’ growing aversions to refined sugars by applying new sweetening agents perceived to be more “natural” than simple syrup. Alternative sweeteners you’ll find in cocktails these days include agave nectar, maple syrup and pomegranate molasses, to name just a few. In this case, pure blueberry juice acted as the not-too-sweet sweetener, lending just enough tartness to balance the high alcohol content of the Applejack.
Stone Cold Voodoo
This mix of silver rum, white peach, damson plum gin, allspice and Creole bitters is on the menu at Monument Lane, a charming spot around the block from our New York office. It is one of several cocktails on their list featuring bitters, a 2012 trending ingredient that some restaurants have begun to make in-house. Forward-thinking mixologists have been experimenting with bitters for the past few years, but it’s evident this trend has now caught on with the mainstream. The LA Times recently reviewed a set of traveling cocktail bitters and bloggers are posting recipes for homemade ones left and right.
Limonada de Coco
Amid the worst of the East Coast heat wave, a friend taught me how to make this chilly Colombian favorite using coconut cream, rum, lime juice and plenty of ice. I slurped my first glass down before the ice began to melt and, while pouring a second, began to place the Cartagenan treat in the context of food and beverage fads. With coconut products flooding the U.S. market, a rum resurgence on the horizon and growing interest in Colombia’s culture, Limonada de Coco is poised to become the next “it” drink, and a natural choice for mixologists marketing to a cosmopolitan crowd.
What’s on your cocktail hot list for the summer?
IMAGE CREDITS: Creative Culinary U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Stirred Not Shaken blog, Vimeo