Cocktails and mocktails

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Cocktail
Cocktail (pjohnson1 / E+ / Getty Images)

By Keri White

I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend’s home in Stone Harbor at the Jersey Shore for a recent weekend. She, a teetotaler, tapped me to handle the bar for all of the guests.


She asked me to bring cocktail accouterments for Friday and Saturday and wine for the Saturday night dinner. I was happy to undertake this task and was determined to provide something refreshing and tasty for my gracious hostess. I wanted to accommodate her preferences (which also include no refined sugar) and sought to pour her something more interesting than sparkling water, which is often the default for nondrinkers.

Mission accomplished by these two recipes, named for where they were created.

The Society Hill paired perfectly with vodka, but I could definitely see it with rum or tequila. And for the low-octane version, my friend added sparkling water, but if you eschew fizz, tap water is just fine. My goal was to highlight summer flavors and also integrate herbs from my garden; the mint complemented the lemonade perfectly.

On that Saturday, which just happened to be National Tequila Day (where do they get these observances?), I created the Stone Harbor out of fresh watermelon, lime juice and basil and mixed it with tequila for those wanting to partake. Because the watermelon is so naturally sweet, we did not need to add any sugar or agave. It was just delightful.

Society Hill

Makes about 2 cups of strong lemonade, which would provide about 6 drinks when they are mixed with vodka, sparkling water or water — quantity may vary pending the juiciness of the lemons.

Do not be alarmed by the fact that this uses whole lemons with the rind. I’ve made it with both peeled lemons (a pain) and whole lemons (not a pain). The latter method arguably adds more lemon flavor, and since the whole pureed mess is strained anyway, it’s a great hack.

I made simple syrup using sugar and water for the group, but the hostess preferred honey, so I used a 1 part honey/3 parts water proportion to make her simple syrup. Agave is an excellent alternative if you find the flavor of honey overpowering.

  • 8 lemons, cut in quarters
  • 5 stalks mint with leaves
  • ¼ cup sugar (honey/agave)
  • ¾ cup water, plus more for adjusting the flavor
  • Vodka/sparkling water/tap water
  • Lots of ice
  • Sprigs of mint for garnish

In a blender or food processor, puree the lemons with the mint until fairly smooth. Pour it into a strainer over a bowl and let it sit. Make the simple syrup: Place the sugar and ¾ cup of water in a small saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Set it aside to cool.

Press the lemon puree firmly against the strainer to extract all of the juice from the mush. There should be at least 1 cup of this lemon/mint liquid.

When the syrup cools, mix it with the lemon juice and then add water, gradually, until the drink tastes like strong lemonade — approximately 2 cups.

For a mocktail, fill a glass with ice, and fill it three-fourths of the way with the lemon mixture. Top off the drink with either sparkling water or additional ice water.

For a cocktail, fill a glass with ice and fill it one-fourth of the way with vodka. Fill the glass the rest of the way with the lemon mixture. Stir, garnish it with a sprig of mint and enjoy.

Stone Harbor

Makes about 6 cups of juice, which produces 8 or more drinks depending on how you spike it and how much ice you use.

The freshness and simplicity of this drink is deceptive — it is just watermelon and lime juice. But it is far more than the sum of its parts. On top of that, the color is just beautiful.

  • 6 cups watermelon, cut in chunks
  • Juice of 6 limes
  • Basil leaves, snipped or muddled to release flavor
  • White tequila

Puree the watermelon in a blender or Cuisinart. Pour the puree through a strainer, pressing down on solids to extract maximum juice. Squeeze the juice of 6 limes into the watermelon juice and stir.

To serve as a cocktail, fill a glass with ice and fill it one-fourth of the way with tequila. Fill it up with the watermelon-lime mixture and a basil leaf.

For a mocktail, simply pour the watermelon lime juice over ice and add the basil or, if that is too fruity for you, mix your preferred proportion of water or sparkling water.

Keri White is a food columnist in Philadelphia. This originally appeared in the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.

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