Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fruity Libations for a Long Labor Day Weekend

How about a red grape, strawberry, tarragon syrup in your highball this Labor Day weekend?

Ah Labor Day, the harbinger of summer’s end. Shindigs galore from sea to shining sea.

According to Wikipedia,
Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.
It’s also better known as a guaranteed day off for those who work zombie-inducing 9-to-5 jobs, most likely in a beige environment.

Although beige has its moments, that moment is not now.

We imagine that cocktails will be a part of your Labor Day Weekend festivities at some point, so we have an idea whereby colorful and fruit-flavored syrups shine as the key ingredient in a tasty and tantalizing highball. It’s easy to make and, when added to your favorite booze and topped with soda or seltzer, easier to imbibe. You like the color red? May we recommend a raspberry syrup. Magenta get you excited? Then look no further than blueberries. Purple best defines you? Well, concord grapes should be on your grocery list today. And because of the extra day off you definitely have the time.

Demand color in your Labor Day Weekend cocktails or you might end up feeling a little beige.

Over the years, we have made some delectable syrups that have become the bases for cocktail experiments, both wild and tame. Here a few uncommon suggestions:
  • red or black currant
  • gooseberry (okay, we admit this can be a pale, almost beige, syrup if using green ones, but the flavor is one-of-a-kind)
  • red grapes, strawberries, tarragon (use twice as many red grapes to strawberries, and a handful of tarragon)
Fruit Syrup
(adapted from the NY Times recipe for Raspberry Syrup)

This is a classic fruit syrup recipe that can be halved.

2 cups colorful fruit, in any combination (berries and stone fruits work well)
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
herbs and spices (use your judgment here; strong herbs such as thyme may be overwhelming in large quantities whereas lighter herbs such as tarragon may be used in wild abandon)

Combine berries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and a cup of water in a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring so that the fruit begins to break down and get mushy. (If you’re using a fruit with skins that resist easy breakup, such as grapes, you should mash them a little.) Now, to stop the cooking process, add a cup and a half of cold water to the fruit mixture. If you are using herbs and spices and lemon juice, now is the time to add them as well (for the lemon juice, you can just squeeze some from a half lemon into the fruit mixture). Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. If a lot of foam collects at the top, you can try to skim it off. Now is the time to separate the fruit mixture. You’ll best be served by a cheesecloth-lined strainer here, as a strainer alone may allow little bits of skin and seeds into your syrup. Trust us, you don’t want that. Pour the mixture carefully through the lined strainer into a bowl. You’ll want to get as much syrup out of the mixture as possible, so use a masher, muddler, or any implement you can find and press on the fruit until you’ve extracted every last sweet drop of fruit syrup. Return the liquid to the saucepan (make sure you’ve rinsed the saucepan throughly) and add 1 to 1/2 cups of sugar (depending on your sweet tooth). Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then turn up the heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes. (If you want a thicker syrup, cook for about 6 minutes.) Remove from heat. Let cool. Add vodka and stir to incorporate (vodka will make the syrup last longer). Refrigerate in a clean container with a good seal or screw cap. This should last for two weeks, and with vodka up to a month.

Makes between 2 to 2 1/2 cups.

Fruit Syrup Highball

1 to 2 ounces fruit syrup (less if you like a drier drink)
1 1/2 ounces your favorite spirit (brown spirits will make your drink darker)
3 to 4 ounces soda or seltzer
slice of citrus, brandied cherry, or the fruit you used in the syrup, as garnish (optional)

Shake syrup and spirit for ten seconds in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with soda. Add garnish. Sip. Do not even think about that beige office.

Fruit Syrup Soda

1 to 2 ounces fruit syrup (less if you like a drier drink)
3 to 4 ounces soda or seltzer
slice of citrus, brandied cherry, or the fruit you used in the syrup, as garnish (optional)

Add syrup to an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with soda. Stir. Add garnish.