Thursday, May 26, 2011

Party Week: Libations

Today's post is all about libations.  Summertime drinks are very near and dear to my heart.  From lemonade to sun tea to more adult beverages they always seem to evoke memories of summer, sunshine, and the lake.  These two drinks are perfect for any summer gathering and take advantage of seasonal produce.

First Up: the Mojito
As far as adult beverages go, there may not be a more refreshing drink than the mojito.  With hints of mint, lime, and a little sugar, the mojito is a perfect beverage to enjoy pool side, patio side or (my favorite) lake side.

Recently I started making simple syrups to flavor my drinks, instead of trying to stir in sugar.  I cannot tell you how much better it is.  The sugar is already melted so mixing is a breeze and you can steep the syrup with basically any flavoring agent you want.  Jason and I always have a pitcher of ice tea in our refrigerator, but we never sweeten it.  A simple syrup is great for those rare days that I want my tea sweetened or (more often) a friend comes over and wants sweet tea.  Simple syrups are made with equal parts water and sugar and heated until the sugar dissolves.  Then add any flavoring agent (I've been really big into mint lately) that you want.  Simple syrups are perfect in mojitos because they allow you to add the mint flavor without needing to muddle the mint first.  I still add a couple shredded mint leaves to the glass, but that's just for presentation.  Bobby Flay's mojito recipe is my current favorite:


  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 cup lime-mint simple syrup
  • 1 liter white rum
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • Club soda


  • To make the simple syrup, heat 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Add 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves and 2 zest of 2 limes.  Steep for 30 minutes, until the mixture cools.  Strain out the zest and mint leaves.  Will keep for approximately one week.
  • Combine the syrup, rum, lime juice, and ice in a large pitcher.  Top of with club soda to taste.  Squeeze a lime wedge and extra mint leaves into each glass to garnish.
Next Up: Cucumber Lemongrass Agua Fresca
I've recently become obsessed with Agua Frescas.  Basically it's just water flavored with fruits, but man oh man is it tasty.  They're a perfect summer drink, because they're not overly sweet, not overly overpowering, and incredibly satisfying.  There are dozens of agua fresca recipes available, but I chose cucumber lemongrass, for its vivid green color and deliciously refreshing taste.  Lemongrass may not be a common ingredient for most people, but fear not!  It's readily available with the fresh herbs in most grocery stores.  It looks kind of like ...well...a stalk of grass.  This recipe is from Matt Armendariz, photographer and food blogger extraordinaire.  His blog is one of my all-time favorites, and once you try this recipe, you'll realize why.  And in case you don't love cucumbers, there are several other agua fresca recipes available on his blog.

Lemongrass Simple Syrup- Use a rolling pin to mash a stalk of lemon grass.  Cut it into 4 sections.  Heat 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water to a boil.  Add the lemongrass and steep until the mixture is cool.  Remove the lemon grass.

Agua Fresca-
  • 4 cups chopped english cucumber (skin on) with 2-4 cups of water to blend
  • 8-10 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime, to taste
  • Pinch of salt.
  • Puree the fruit and water in a blender, adding as much water is necessary.  Strain the mixture to remove seeds and pulp.  I did two different strains: one through a sieve and then a second one through  cheesecloth.
  • Add the simple syrup to the mixture and the 8-10 cups of water, adjusting the amount to how strong/weak you want the drink.
  • Add the lime juice and serve.  
Whip some of these delicious drinks up for Memorial Day, your friends and taste-buds will thank you!

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