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The following post is sponsored by Frangelico. Cocktail name, development, recipe and photography are completely my own. Check out Frangelico online and follow them on Facebook for more exciting recipes.
Is it summer finally? Are we there yet, Mother Nature?
Up here in
the tundra Montreal, the warm weather has been *such* a tease lately. We’ve had one of those springs where two days of delightful, sun-dappled, sleeve-shedding weather are followed by a near-week of chilly, damp, Debbie Downer-weather.
At times like this, I find that crafting a pre-emptively summery cocktail helps. It’s like a
rainsundance for fanciful imbibers like us! (Here in French Canada, we might call it a bellwether for belle weather! *har*har*snort!)
A julep’s got most everything I look for in a summertime cocktail. The crushed ice keeps the drink colder, longer and the mint’s cooling and refreshing. But the bourbon — can I do one better on the bourbon? I love (read: luuurrrve) bourbon’s languid sweetness, but how about lightening up its syrupy-ness with some more playful flavors, a little tartness and an unexpected grace note or
two three: A hint of nuttiness, a whiff of vanilla, a certain je ne sais noisette? (p.s. Bonus points if I can do all this without glopping on a ton of calories. What up, bathing suit?)
To make the Summertime Smash, I improved upon (if I do say so myself) the julep by halving the bourbon and replacing it with Frangelico. The hazelnut-flavored liqueur, more delicate in flavor and body, makes for a less heavy cocktail and one with more going on in the glass. The flavor of the Frangelico also allowed me to introduce some lemon into the recipe.
(Note: I know it seems that a plain-old julep, nothing but mint and bourbon, should pair easily with lemon, but you’d be surprised. It needs a bridge ingredient, a harmony-maker if you will. Enter Frangelico!) (I’ve also done this before with ginger beer.)
Once the hubs and I open our backyard for the season, I’m thinking the Summertime Smash may end up my go-to cocktail for entertaining al fresco. I have a hunch that those friends who find my mint juleps too heavy and cloying will appreciate the more lilting qualities of the Summertime Smash, while those who do love juleps will enjoy the refreshing, slightly fizzy presto-change-up. (Which I’ve also done before; see World’s Greatest Rye Perfect Manhattan.)
Hey, summer? Ready when you are.
The Summertime Smash
1 ounce Frangelico
1 ounce bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)
1 teaspoon sweetener of choice (granulated sugar, simple syrup, or mint-steeped simple syrup; see Tasting Notes below for recipes and tips)
A splash of two lemon-spiked seltzer
About 8 large mint leaves
Mint sprig and lemon wheel, to garnish
Place mint leaves in bottom of a rocks glass. (It’s up to you whether you want to use a highball, a Collins glass, etc.) Pour sweetener on top of leaves and muddle together well. Fill glass with crushed ice. Pour in bourbon, then Frangelico. Top with seltzer. Give the drink a gentle stir, then add your garnish. Enjoy!
My preferred method for making simple syrup is to mix equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture reaches a boil, turn off heat and let cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge.
To make mint-steeped syrup, add a good handful of mint leaves to the above mixture as soon as you’ve removed it from heat. Let the leaves steep 10 or so minutes, then strain them from the mixture and toss.
If you choose granulated sugar as your sweetener, pour just a teaspoon or so of water on top of your mint and sugar before muddling. The liquid acts like a hood that keeps the mint’s fragrance down in the bottom of the glass where you want it, rather than allowing it to release into the air.
Make lemon-spiked seltzer by simply squeezing a lemon wedge into a liter-sized bottle of seltzer. Or, you can just use plain seltzer when making your cocktail, then squeeze a little lemon over your Summertime Smash to finish it off.
First and, I guess, foremost: When I say “JC,” I’m talking ’bout Jersey City, not Jesus Christ. Although now that I mention it, perhaps this post’s/cocktail’s name will SEO some hyperChristians my way. In which case, give God the glory and pass me the bar nuts, flock! I think Jesus was a cool dude with lots of nice things to say — even if he did prefer wine over the hard stuff.
Second: The cool dude who’s the real star of this post is my cousin-in-law Chris
t, the inventor of this cocktail and a Jersey-proud resident of the OJC. So proud, in fact, that the native New Jerseyan lives on Jersey Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey. Or, as he’s dubbed the sum-total effect of his address… SuperJersey.
By the creamy, swirly look of it (as seen in pic above) + by the name of it => This cocktail must contain ice cream or at least cream-cream, no?
Me: Hey, J. and M. [our favorite married-couple-with-new-baby-in-Montreal friends] invited us over on Mother’s Day afternoon for cocktails. J.’s mother and grandmother are in town. J. says her mother and I will get along because we’re both drinkers.
The PhoBlograpHusband: Wait — for cocktails?! [J. doesn't drink; M. will drink beer but only because that's the law in Canada.]
Me: I know, right? J. even emailed me their list of what booze they’ve got in the house and, omg, it’s sooo “we never drink hard liquor.” It’s, like, gin, vodka, Jack Daniel’s, a little bit of dry vermouth, OJ.
PHB: We should bring our own stash over.
The first time I ever drank alcohol (Mom, stop reading now) was at a party at Jeff Dakin’s house. I was 16, I think, and there was Budweiser in cans. As I couldn’t stand the taste of the
champagne of beer s, I emptied a can into an oversized, plastic cup and mixed it with OJ, which was all I could find in the Dakin family fridge that struck me as even plausible to combine with pissy lager. And so my career in mixology began .
I remember being so embarrassed by this that I only did my mixing when nobody else was in the kitchen, but I also remember coming up with a name for my concoction — the Rosebud — which means I must’ve talked to other kids there about it, or at least that I saw the humor in what I was doing.
If I’d known then about red wine and Coke, think 0f how boldly I could’ve plundered Mr. and Mrs. Dakin’s wine stash instead of making do with OJ’d-down, mass-produced swill. Imagine my rapt, pimple-pocked audience as I explained that rendering cheap booze palatable for consumption was a noted hallmark of youth across the seas! Think about what a precocious, pretentious ass I would’ve sounded like, expounding upon my own multiculti self-awareness. (Why, I may as well have checked my humility at the door and enrolled as one of Suri Cruise’s classmates at Avenues!)
H.L. Mencken called the martini the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet, but I think the Sidecar goes one better: It’s as engrossing and enrapturing as the Great American novel.
While riffling through my ever-beloved Difford’s Encyclopedia of Cocktails recently, I was stopped dead in my tracks by Simon Difford’s recipe for a Sazerac. Ask any goomba how to make a classic one and you’ll be told rye whiskey, bitters (Peychaud’s, sometimes Angostura too), a sugar cube, and an old-fashioned glass coated with absinthe. Well, that’s just not good enough for Monsieur Lord Simon Difford, Esq., Ph.D. VII…
Here we have a Tuxedo Martini. It is of a piece with the Stork Club, a cocktail I blogged a few weeks back, in that both were christened after the New York City hotspots where they were invented. Allow me to quote my ever-dogeared copy of Difford’s Encyclopedia of Cocktails:
“Created at the Tuxedo Club, New York, circa 1885. A year later this was the birthplace of the tuxedo, when a tobacco magnate, Griswold Lorillard, wore the first ever tailless dinner jacket and named the style after the club.”
A few things:
In some circles, the El Presidente is otherwise known as a Cuban Martini. It’s also one of those cocktails with slippery origins; in my Difford’s Encyclopedia of Cocktails, this is the fourth of four known El Presidente recipes printed. Variations include:
- El Presidente #1: Light rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine; a slim change-up on a classic daiquiri, replacing its simple syrup with pineapple juice. (Which, now that I think about it, is a great idea.)
- El Presidente #2: Light rum, dry vermouth, bitters. Difford’s describes it as “bone dry” and “rather like a rum-based, old-school Martini.”
- El Presidente #3: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau, grenadine. A Trader Vic’s recipe, of which Vic himself allegedly said, “This is the real recipe.” (But I think he claims that about all of his concoctions? At least about the Mai Tai, which he said he flat-out invented.)
- El Presidente #4: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau. “Dry but not bone dry, with balanced fruit from the triple sec and vermouth.” Ding ding ding ding ding, we have a winner!
I have seen recipes for champagne martinis that call for just vodka and sparkler. I have come across others (more than I would have guessed) that all swear by a spoonful of raspberry puree in the bottom of the glass, with some fizz and whatever else on top. And I have read that just bubbly and Cointreau is what constitutes a proper Champagne Martini — if “proper” is even a descriptor we can properly use when discussing a cocktail that bears, at best, a second-cousin resemblance to a proper-proper martini-martini.
My new favorite acronym is MINO — Martini in Name Only. It was, I will admit to you devout drinkers, a fact of life I had to swallow (straight, no chaser) when I agreed to author a cocktail book called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms. Clearly, not all 175+ recipes in the book are vodka- and or gin-based, for one thing. Believe you me, I did strive to make as many of the book’s recipes fall in line with a classic martini’s most hallowed guidelines. As it turns out, Mom does not live on vermouth alone.