August 5, 2012

Summer on the Rocks

Seems like the dog days of summer are when you really start getting creative with your drink. Worn down from patio parties with spiked lemonade, after-work beer garden boredom, and a plethora of picnics in the park with sparkling wine or rosé, you might be ready for some real on-the-rocks creativity.

Whiskey cocktails are no longer nouveau, I know. They seem so last season these days, but mix them with beer and in-season fruit, and you have a whole new concoction. That's what this first recipe does, with rye whiskey, IPA, and peaches. The Summit Solstice, adapted from a recipe created by Sean Marron, the wine director at The Farm in Park City, UT, is a refreshing and light beer-whiskey cocktail. White tea in a complimentary flavor may be hard to come by, but it's worth looking for if you want to make a serious Summit Solstice. I used Revolution brand white pear tea, which I found in a specialty foods store on Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile. You can purchase it online here, and it is well worth the shipping cost, even for when you just want a cuppa tea later this winter. As for a good rye whiskey, I recommend Templeton, FEW, or Whipper Snapper. The original recipe calls for a bourbon-rye blend, but rye on its own will do the trick. If you want to be able to make this drink year-around, when peaches aren't in season, indulge in a little white peach purée from Perfect Puree. You can keep it frozen and thaw what you need. And lastly, I know these hot days can suss you up plenty, so if you need to cut the alcohol a bit, dilute with sparkling water or club soda.

I've also included a white peach sangria recipe, that was a huge hit at my last book club gathering, with both the gentlemen and the ladies, surprisingly. Traditional red sangria is often anyone's toast for tapas on the town, but white or blush drinks in general, namely white wines and champagnes, tend to be favorites of the females in any crowd. This recipe is derived from one I used long ago, when I began throwing dinner parties fresh out of grad school at my very first home in St. Louis. Multiple moves and too many donations to libraries later, I can't find the cookbook from which I originally gleaned it. So I made this up that evening with my book club, and to my relief, it went over very well! You can also substitute white grape juice or pear nectar, as white cranberry peach juice can also sometimes be hard to find, especially sans high fructose corn syrup and other additives. However, it's well worth searching for. The drink is perfection in a rocks glass. Happy final days of summering!

Summit Solstice (adapted from The Farm)

2 teaspoons diced fresh peaches or thawed peach purée
6 mint leaves
3 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
1 ounce white tea syrup*
2 ounce IPA or Domaine DuPage French Country Ale (my personal favorite)
peach slices for garnish

Fill two rocks glasses with ice and set aside. Combine the peaches or purée and mint leaves in a mixing glass and muddle well. Add whiskey and white tea syrup and shake. Strain evenly into rocks glasses and top with beer. Garnish with peach slices and serve. Serves 2.

*For the White Tea Syrup: Steep four (4) bags Revolution White Pear Tea in 12 ounces boiling water for 1 hour. Remove tea bags and add 10 ounces powdered sugar. Whisk to dissolve. Seal extra tea syrup tightly in a bottle or jar and store in a cool, dry place.

White Peach Sangria

1/2 cup Triple Sec, Cointreau, or other orange-flavored liqueur
1/2 cup brandy
1 750-ml bottle Cupcake Prosecco
1 regular-size bottle Ocean Spray White Cran-Peach Juice Drink
1 peach, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup seedless white grapes
handful of fresh cranberries
1 lemon seeded and sliced

This recipe feeds a crowd, so set up two equivalent-size pitchers and split everything equally between the two. Place 1/4 cup orange liqueur and 1/4 cup brandy in each pitcher, then split the bottle of Prosecco and juice drink evenly between the two pitchers. Float the fruit in equal amounts on top and keep chilled until serving. Fill wine glasses with ice and serve. Serves 12-16.