The weather last Sunday was beautiful and I took advantage of it to do a bit of gardening. As I transplanted Pansies and Freesia bulbs by the dozen, I looked around at the colors of Mother Nature and was reminded that several spring celebrations are right around the corner. Over the next six weeks, we will be planning for Easter, Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby. Don’t forget Mother’s Day isn’t far behind either!
Many celebrations have classic cocktails associated with them. Cinco de Mayo is an occasion for a Margarita and the Derby means Mint Julep’s are on the menu. These classic cocktails are easier to prepare than you think. They each only require a few ingredients and can be prepared by the drink or in a pitcher for a larger crowd.
Forget the bottled mix
Up until a few years ago, I made my Margarita with either sweet and sour mix or some commercially available mix. You don’t need them. The best margarita I ever had only has three ingredients, plus some salt for the rim and ice to cool it; lime juice freshly squeezed, simple syrup (a sugar and water mixture; see recipe below) and a good quality tequila. Believe me, you won’t ever buy bottled mix again.
A Derby Classic
The mint julep is a part of the Derby like Bourbon is a part of Kentucky. Well, that is kind of a given since the main alcohol in a Julep is Bourbon. The other ingredients are fresh mint, sugar, a bit of water (plain or seltzer) and ice. There are various recipes and some are easier to scale up than others. I’m going to include two variations of this classic for you.
Traditionally, mint juleps were often served in silver or pewter cups, and held only by the bottom and top edges. This allows frost to form on the outside. Traditional hand placement may have arisen as a way to reduce the heat transferred from the hand to the silver or pewter cup. Today, mint juleps are most commonly served in a tall old-fashioned glass, Collins glass, or highball glass with a straw.
“Cool as a Cucumber” is a cocktail for spring and summer entertaining. It’s a light and fizzy cocktail with ginger, cucumber, and gin. Careful with these folks, they don’t taste like they have alcohol in them and they will go to your head before you realize it. We love them for evenings on the patio. This cocktail is a little more involved in the preparation than the other two but, believe me, you will like the results.
We at iList enjoy entertaining but ask that you please drink responsibly and have a designated driver. Live, Laugh, love, and eat well.
- 2 ½oz Tequila (I like Jose Cuervo)
- 1oz Simple Syrup (see recipe below)
- 1oz Fresh Lime juice (about 1 medium sized lime)
- Salt for the rim
Dampen the rim of a margarita or highball glass with water or lime juice. Invert the glass and dip the rim in salt, shaking off the excess. Add ice to the glass. In a shaker, add about 1 cup ice, tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup. Cap and shake until cold. Strain the extra ice while pouring the cocktail into the prepared glass and garnish with a slice of lime.
Classic Mint Julep
- 10 mint leaves plus a sprig for garnish
- 1 ½ tsp superfine sugar
- Seltzer or tap water
- 2 ½oz Kentucky Bourbon
- Crushed ice
- Sprig of mint for garnish
In a mint julep cup or highball glass, add the leaves, sugar and a splash of water. Muddle until the leaves start to break apart, then add the ice, bourbon and another splash of water. Mix with a spoon and garnish with the sprig of mint.
Mint Julep (alternative recipe)
- 1oz mint simple syrup (see recipe below)
- 2oz Kentucky Bourbon
- Crushed ice
- Sprig of mint for garnish
In a mint julep cup or highball glass, add the mint simple syrup, bourbon, ice and a splash of water to top off the glass. Mix with a spoon and garnish with mint.
Cool as a Cucumber
- 1oz Gin infused with cucumber and ginger (recipe follows)
- ¼ to ½oz Ginger simple syrup (recipe follows)
- Cucumber for muddling and garnish
- Ginger ale
Muddle a couple of slices of cucumber in a highball glass and add ice. Then add the Gin, ginger syrup and top with ginger ale. Mix with a spoon and garnish with a slice of cucumber on the rim.
Infused Gin: In a quart Mason jar, or similar container, place about 8 to 10 slices of fresh cucumber and about a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger that has been peeled and sliced. Fill jar with Gin (any inexpensive gin works; I don’t recommend flavored or expensive gin). Allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours then refrigerate. Good for 3 to 5 days with vegetable still in jar.
Simple Syrup: Place 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar dissolves and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Take off heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a bottle or jar with a lid and refrigerate. Good for up to 3 weeks.
Mint Simple Syrup: Place 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar dissolves and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Take off heat and add a bunch of mint (think size of parsley you buy at grocer) and steep for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and strain out the mint. Transfer to a bottle or jar with a lid and refrigerate. Good for up to 3 weeks.
Ginger simple syrup: Place 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Add about a teaspoon of whole black peppercorns and a 2-inch piece of ginger peeled and sliced thin. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool and strain the liquid to remove pepper and ginger. Store in a jar or bottle refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.