By Kevin Hopper
Before the advent of bottled cocktail mixers, cocktails were made by using fresh fruit juice and real sugar. The simple combination of juice, sugar and spirit is really as simple and easy as it gets.
Or is it?
You can go to the Kwik-E-Mart and get a margarita in a can with tequila already added. That’s true, but check the ingredients; what you are actually drinking is a malt beverage (beer) — “malted barley, cereal grains, yeast, hops, flavors, and sweeteners” to be exact. Now, if you like the taste of it, it’s your world. Consume.
However, I would like to propose a taste test. If you are used to Lime-a-ritas, Straw-ber-itas, and, yes, even Grape-a-ritas, do a side-by-side comparison. In fact, grab a few friends and make a party out of it. Taste the bottled version next to the real version and see which tastes better.
If it’s convenience you are looking for, read on. By having fresh fruit juice and simple syrup (search for: The simple approach at IdahoStatesman.com) in your refrigerator, great tasting cocktails are as simple as mixing sugar and cream in your morning coffee.
Take the greyhound for instance: Gin (or vodka) combined with fresh grapefruit juice tastes vastly better than bottled juice. Every time I squeeze grapefruits at Capitol Bar, you can see my guests’ eyes widen as the scent of the oils expressed fills the air. That’s because fruit is fresh and already packaged naturally. All of the essence of a piece of fruit is just waiting to be opened up and enjoyed.
Likewise, by combining fresh lime juice, simple syrup and tequila, you have a margarita. Fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and vodka makes a vodka sour. Add soda water and you have a vodka Collins. Simple, lemon and whiskey is a whiskey sour. Add an egg white, shake and you have a frothy version. The point here is that with fresh fruit available, there is a myriad of recipes that you can create. You are literally the bartender at that point.
Lemon, grapefruit and lime juice flavor the majority of cocktails, but why limit yourself? There are pineapple, watermelon, guava, peach, cucumber and all sorts of fruits at your neighborhood fruit stand. Grab whatever strikes your fancy, stop at the liquor store and invite some friends over for a backyard fruit juice fest. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started.
2 ounces premium tequila (Herradura or Don Julio work well)
1 ounces watermelon juice
1/4 ounces cucumber juice
1/2 ounces lime juice
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you don’t have a juicer, simply muddle the watermelon and cucumber and strain out the solids. Add ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass filled with ice. And, by all means, don’t limit yourself to tequila. This recipe works just as well with gin or vodka. If you have fresh herbs, throw in some mint or basil for another layer of flavor. Have a great summer.