For the first time in about 3 years, we here in the Northeast are experiencing a real summer – multiple weeks of sunshine and temperatures above 70° F. Previous so-called summers have been gray, cloudy, and cool, but 2010 is reminding us what the season is really like – hot. Hot, and sticky, and wonderful if you happen to be at the beach, but frankly a little bit gross all of the rest of the time.
Despite the grossness, there are lots of good things about a proper summer – the plants love this weather, and with proper watering are producing scads of beautiful fruits and vegetables. Grilling is not only fun, it’s downright necessary to avoid heating your kitchen to surface of the sun level temperatures. And there are some terrific summery cocktails that seem only right when the mercury soars over 80°. In honor of the true sunny summer of 2010 today I thought I’d share a few of my favorite summer treats!
These were the first tomatoes from my garden! I have a hard time doing anything too fancy with fresh garden tomatoes, because they are so insanely good on their own, with maybe just a sprinkling of salt to bring out the flavor. These turned a beautiful orangey-red as soon as the weather turned hot, and tasted sweet yet a bit meaty at the same time. I still believe that anyone who hates raw tomatoes needs to eat one right off the plant before making their final verdict. If you still hate them after that, well there’s just no hope for you.
Honestly, my favorite grilled food of all time is spareribs. But last year Mr. Menace and I started buying chicken wings, and this year I found the recipe of my dreams. The only modification I’ve made is to use one tablespoon of chili sauce instead of two – I use Sriracha and one tablespoon is plenty hot enough. That said, I wouldn’t recommend taking it out entirely – without it all of that molasses and honey becomes cloyingly sweet – the spice cuts it down and balances it out. Leave the wings soaking for several hours instead of one and throw these on the grill and you will have the most beautiful lacquered chicken wings it has been my pleasure to eat. Sweet, spicy, and garlicky – these would be a great party food!
Finally, they’d pair well with what I consider the ultimate summer cocktail:
This, my friends, is a Singapore Sling; that is to say it’s ONE interpretation of a Singapore Sling. What’s tricky about the Singapore Sling is that it’s one of those drinks that has a somewhat contentious history among cocktail historians. It was quite possibly invented at the Raffles Hotel by Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915, although even that is not a set-in-stone fact. The problem is that there are many, many different recipes floating about, and no real consensus as to which is the right one. The one I use comes from Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology, and is notable, I think, for it lack of grenadine, which makes it both less red and less sweet than what you’ll often be served at a bar. It requires:
2 oz gin
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/4 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz triple sec
2 oz pineapple juice
3/oz fresh lime juice
Angostura bitters to taste
Basically, shake all of the ingredients except for the club soda (unless you enjoy a mess, and flat soda) and strain into a collins glass full of ice. Top with the club soda and enjoy.
This is my perfect summer drink because in this form it is light, a little frothy, and not-too-sweet. As I noted above, most other recipes I’ve seen include grenadine, which is a bit much for me, although if you use real pomegranate syrup, as Ted Haigh suggests in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, it’s probably quite a bit better. Mr. Haigh, also known as Dr. Cocktail, also shares a recipe in that book for the Straits Sling, which he believes to be the precursor to the Singapore Sling. If you have a strong interest in cocktail history, that book is a great, usable place to start!.
So there you have it – not a complete list by any means of my summer favorites, but a fine place to start. What are you particularly loving this summer?