RYE ON THE ROCKS
Cocktails for a Late Summer’s Night
By Clark Moore
I don’t want to be writing this article. It means the end is drawing near. Things are falling apart. I think I need a drink.
Thankfully, I have one or two strategies to bring this to fruition. As much as I lament summer coming to a close one good thing is that fresh fruit is in plenteous abundance. Produce is large, ripe, and colorful. Just touch a peach and it practically bursts. Berries pop from their cartons. Melons hardly need Gallagher’s touch to explode.
But as flavorful as certain fruits are on their own, they can sometimes get overpowered in the context of cocktails. Blueberries, for example, tend to lose their vibrancy when blended or infused. I find the same to be true with cantaloupe. Ripe cantaloupe can be rich to the point of being savory — the gourdiness really comes out in them. Yet in cocktails, even the ripest melons lose their intensity. Fortunately, as a barman, I’ve developed some strategies over the years to bring out the most in fruits that are traditionally more challenging to work with in cocktails.
For blueberries, I’ve found that making a shrub is the most effective strategy. A shrub is essentially a simple syrup made with vinegar. This is a way to add brightness and vibrancy without resorting to citrus, which can sometimes outshine other flavors. The beautiful thing about a shrub is that when properly blended and balanced, you can’t taste the vinegar at all —the only thing that comes through is its acidity. With blueberries, I like to use balsamic vinegar, as the dark fruity notes pick up the berry flavor most effectively. And a little goes a long way. I use 1/8th of a cup of vinegar to one cup of sugar, one cup of water, and two cups of blueberries. From here, the possibilities are endless. This can be blended with almost any spirit — light or dark—but I find rum to work best. I’ve included a fun recipe below.
For cantaloupe, I take perhaps a more unusual tack. To add richness and dimension, I like to blend the cantaloupe juice with carrots. Not only does this enhance the color, but it intensifies the compelling sweet and savory aspects without over-dominating. Heated lightly with a honey, brown sugar, orange zest, and a pinch of salt, you have a syrup ready for any number of refreshing cocktails. The creamy, honeyed, Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin is a terrific starting point. It’s also stellar with brandy.
Of course, with cocktails, the possibilities for experimentation are limitless. Either of these syrups can be made into simple and rewarding tipples when combined with an appropriate base spirit, and perhaps some citrus or tonic. Trust your own taste when embarking. However, should you wish to do something more extravagant, I’ve got you covered for that too.
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1 oz. El Dorado 8 Year Rum
1 oz. Coconut Cream
3/4 oz. blueberry shrub*
3/4 oz. Kronan Swedish Punsch
1/4 oz. Amaro Montenegro
1/4 oz. lime juice
1/4 Dropper Bittermens Tiki Bitters
Combine ingredients in a tumbler. Add ice, shake (not too long, or the coconut cream will curdle), and double strain into a highball filled with ice. Garnish with three skewered blueberries and a lavish cocktail umbrella.
*For the shrub, combine two cups of blueberries, one cup of water, and one cup of raw cane sugar in a pot. Heat until sugar is dissolved, and the berries are stewed. Stir to blend and remove from heat. Allow to cool and add 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine, and strain.
<Loupe Pressure System>
1.5 oz. Barr Hill Gin
1 oz. cantaloupe syrup*
.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
.25 oz. fresh orange juice
3 drops Bitter End Moroccan Bitters
Combine ingredients in a tumbler. Add ice, shake, and double strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with skewered melon balls and a lemon wheel.
*For the syrup, combine two cups cantaloupe juice, ½ cup wildflower honey, ½ cup light brown sugar, ¼ cup carrot juice, ½ teaspoon orange zest, and a pinch of sea salt in a pot. Heat until honey, sugar, and salt are dissolved, but do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cool, and strain.