Whether it’s foraging, tending to a garden or farm, bringing home a CSA box, or visiting a farmers market, local produce is making more appearances in city homes. Here’s how to turn your late-summer farm finds into delicious drinks.
The fastest way to incorporate fresh flavor is smashing it into the bottom of a glass. This technique works best for herbs, dense fruit, and last-minute additions. A few light presses release the flavorful oils from herbs. Aggressive pummeling or ripping twists are common mistakes that introduce bitter flavors.
Muddle-ables: mint, basil, cilantro, corn, blueberries, cucumbers, raspberries, bell peppers
If you have a juicer, otherwise plain produce quickly becomes a summer sipper. Fruits and veggies with high water content are ideal. Carrot juice is still somehow a hidden gem. Bell peppers are a surprisingly funky accent to any spirit. Kohlrabi and celery are versatile spirit partners. Tomato water sounds odd but it’s a bright umami bomb for your favorite martini.
Juice-ables: beets, carrots, bell peppers, melons, kohlrabi, celery, tomatoes
Any thin liquid can be made into a cocktail syrup by combining it with equal parts liquid and sugar or honey. (Note: sweeteners and stevia products don’t work for this.) Dissolve over heat to highlight toasty flavors or combine in a blender until dissolved to preserve fresh, bright notes. Harder elements can be boiled in water, strained, and stirred into the sugar or honey.
Syrup-ables: (soft) beets, melons, berries; (hard) corn, rhubarb, fruit pits, nuts
A secret weapon for making syrups at home is covering porous ingredients with sugar and letting them sit until the sugar has dissolved into a syrup. Some recipes call this an “oleo saccharum,” a Latin phrase literally meaning “oil-sugar,” used by bartenders because our mothers aren’t impressed with us yet.
Sugar-ables: cucumbers, berries, melons, citrus peels
Syrup + Vinegar = Shrub! The shortcut to a balanced cocktail without citrus. Revisit our column on Drinking Vinegar (November 2018) for more in-depth information.
For dry ingredients, infusion is a blanket term for incorporating their flavor into the spirit or syrup. Stir ingredients into the spirit and rest until flavorful. Greens and soft herbs can be blended with either the spirit or the syrup to “rapid-infuse,” then poured through a mesh strainer and served.
Infuse-ables: rosemary, thyme, peas, beans, corn, zucchini, greens
Close and Far(m)
4 ounces Junmai sake
1 ounce cucumber oleo
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Lightly muddle basil in a glass. Shake all other ingredients over ice, strain into a collins glass with new ice, garnish with a big basil leaf and a metal straw.
* Cucumber Oleo Saccharum: Peel cucumber lengthwise from skin to seeds on all sides. Discard core. Combine peeled strips and 1 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir to coat. Wait until liquid forms and stir to dissolve as much sugar as possible. Strain, bottle, refrigerate.