BY AMANDA CONLEY
Now that summer has heated up, it’s a good time to refresh some of your favorite cocktails with the fresh seasonal produce that have shown up in abundance with the warmer weather. Changing out some fruit flavors in cocktail craft promotes not just creativity but sustainability. Seasonal produce is at its best when in season and at peak flavor and can often be found locally and more economically. These additions can fit nearly anywhere in your cocktail recipe book or can be an on the fly improvisation to expand the palate and try something new.
There’s something inherently summery about tropical fruits. We associate the warmer seasons with pineapples and coconuts, and both are very delicious as a base for many cocktails… including the Pina Colada and Mai Tai. There are however more exotic fruits that are tropical and delicious. The lychee fruit is common to parts of Asia and has a neutral but sweet flavor. As a juice or puree, it makes a great partner in mojito recipes and fizz recipes. Passion fruit or lillikoi has a luscious flavor and the puree makes a great base for mimosas and other sparkling cocktails. Pineapple hasn’t been left out; it is sweetest at this time of year and is great muddled in a mint julep or mojito. Pineapple juice can be added to sangria and adds color and flavor too many juice based cocktails. Coconuts are more than just destined for Pina Coladas, coconut milk can be a substitute for heavy cream in some cocktails and coconut water can have other cocktails built upon it as a base for a subtle tropical flavor. Kiwis are also in season and they make a fruity addition to lime-based cocktails and add a lovely color to drinks.
Summer also means berries for most of the world and while throwing a strawberry in as a garnish can suffice for some, berries are complex and versatile. Strawberries as an infused vodka can make a light summery, easier to sip libation and with mint it is simply divine. Blueberries added to a lemony cocktail add depth and a bit of tartness. Raspberries and mint are also good partners and can be delicious in sparkling wine. Blackberries muddled in make a great smash for a julep or even an inventive fizz. Cherries are a tart and yet sweet juice and can add natural color and flavor to sparkling cocktails.
Summer doesn’t just mean tropical fruits and berries, certain vegetables and other fruits have come into season and they can be added to your cocktail recipe book. Cucumbers and gin together make a delicious Tom Collins, and super sweet tomatoes are great for Bloody Mary recipes. Mint adds a refreshing flavor to many of the cocktails mentioned above and is a classic cocktail ingredient that can stand to branch out into other drink types. Watermelon is a classic flavor of summer and with tequila or white rum can become a tasty libation and refreshing cooler. Working with summer produce is taking the best and brightest of what’s available and using their peak flavors to chill, refresh or just enjoy.