Perhaps the heat is finally giving us a break, but judging by summer menus, ice, ice cream, shakes and freezes still are growing in popularity. Ice is in, even if not perfectly formed, chipped or otherwise cocktail-geek approved. Farm-to-glass is still in vogue, the drinking outgrowth of fresh, seasonal, local and immediate ingredients.
First, the ice, man. Boston, not usually considered heat struck compared with the rest of the country, has many options, including the just-opened Abigail’s, which introduced itself to the drinking world with an ambitious menu that included not only a range of classics and new cocktails, but a selection of icy slushies. There’s the Gin Daisy (gin, lemon juice, housemade grenadine, soda and a float of Yellow Chartreuse) as well as an attempt to rescue from cocktail backwaters the Hurricane (Don Q Platinum and Gosling’s Rums, pineapple juice, lime juice, orange juice, passionfruit and house grenadine). In another part of Beantown, the pleasant memories of snow-cone youth are updated at tequila emporium Papagayo with their Tequila Snow Cones. Perfect little servings of ice prettily soaked with flavored blanco tequila (pineapple, prickly pear or watermelon are the current choices) served in dainty sets of four.
Last year, alcopops (not the kind sold in convenience stores) were getting print, if not popularity, as some municipalities restricted their sale in bars and restaurants. No such problem at the Haven Lounge in Miami Beach, where the summer menu includes the Frozen Napoléon (Cognac and Mandarine Napoléon mixed and hit with liquid nitrogen. Ditto the Pop Drop (Tito’s Vodka, cucumber and basil).
I once tended bar at a place well-known for its ice-cream drinks, and I’d find myself elbow-deep shoveling coffee ice cream into a giant blender cup to whip up four at a time on a hot Friday night. The past few years, the concept seems to have returned a bit; this summer in New York City’s East Village, Sidewalk serves seven iterations of so-called spiked milkshakes: White Russians and Grasshoppers, to be sure, but also less predictable items such as Bourbon Old Fashioneds.
Meanwhile, farm-to-glass keeps growing, especially at fine-dining and resort hotel bars. At the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine, the new La Bella Vita restaurant gets a boost from Scott Luper, regional director of food and beverage for parent company Ocean Properties, who worked with Ripe Fresh Bar Juices to create a “Handcrafted Cocktail” program to make The Samoset stand out. Homegrown herbs tended in the Herb Cocktail Garden, which sits outside the bar, are gathered daily for the nightly cocktail service. Snipped Basil Lime Ricky, San Marzano Tomato Bloody Mary, Italian Grapefruit Gimlet, Agrodolce and many more are all focused on what’s locally available, at least as much as possible. Something similar is going on at Los Angeles’ Joe’s Restaurant, which now expands their local and seasonally-sourced concept to cocktails.
Beverage director Jennifer Zerboni says the farmer’s market has been inspiring many changes. For example, current drinks include the Fleur de Lis (Luksusowa Vodka, lemon, grapefruit, elderflower liqueur and muddled basil served up) and the Drunk Chicken (gin, fresh lemon, rhubarb simple syrup, egg white and rhubarb bitters on the rocks). It’s even peach season in SoCal: Zerboni’s also serving the Venice Peach (Buffalo Trace bourbon, housemade peach puree, lemon, fresh peaches and Pastis). But what’s summer without another Harry Potter movie, and yet another recipe for Butter Beer? This one comes from Ripple in Washington DC, and it sounds like one for the sweet-toothed, but seems to pack a punch. It’s made with Gosling’s rum, house-made butterscotch pudding, house butter syrup and cinnamom bark syrup, and area-brewer Port City’s Optimal Wit beer. Check out its making here.