About this time of year, our heads and our hearts turn to desires to scrunch our toes in sugar-white sand, to laze in emerald-green waters, and to gaze at orange sunsets climaxing as the big glowing ball settles into the waters of the Gulf. OK, so the astronomers tell us that really does not happen, but let’s go with it the way we see it. Copernicus be damned!

For most of us, the beach is close, but still requires a bit of driving and fighting traffic. It’s worth it, but we can’t get there every day, or even every month. Still that does not stem the longing for the pleasures of the surf and sand, nor are we immune to the tug of the bar and restaurants serving food that was swimming in the Gulf as recently as yesterday afternoon.

Even when we are not at the beach, the beach is not very far from our thoughts. Sometimes in our own communities, a dish is offered in a restaurant or a drink that we first had at the beach is concocted at a bar and the good memories return.

What are some of those drinks, and how do you make them correctly? Pish posh. Easy stuff. Later we can check out that nuclear fusion thing but as far as making some great beach drinks, cool and refreshing, you’ve come to the right place. Put on your sunglasses. Slather on some SPF 30. Get ready to go to the beach.

Planter’s Punch
Esquire, 2009
Alec Waugh, a British novelist often took a back seat to his younger brother, noted author, Evelyn Waugh. Alec loved to travel and his reports of his adventures on the road are fascinating reading. While in the Caribbean, he wrote of a “ritual mixing of a Creole punch.” The drink was not particularly exciting, but by using a dark rum from Jamaica or Barbados, suddenly matters took an interesting turn.

The Planter’s Punch evolved during this age of Tiki culture, an ersatz movement that was very popular in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. It survives today, mostly on the reputation of Trader Vic’s, from which this recipe is lifted. There seems to be a desire to place an umbrella into a Planter’s Punch, and if that suits your sense of decorating, have at it.

3 ounces dark rum. We recommend using Jamaican rum.
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
1/4 teaspoon superfine sugar

Stir all ingredients well with cracked ice, then strain into a Collins glass full of cracked ice; stick a straw in it and garnish with whatever you want.

(Thanks to Dave Wondrich, Esquire magazine)

The Real Mojito
Quenching Your Inner Beach Thirst
So many great cocktails have evolved out of Cuba that it boggles the mind. Most of the drinks have a rum base, thanks to the overwhelming presence of sugar cane on that island. This one makes extensive use of the mint that also grows in abundance throughout the Caribbean.

The good news here is that you will get some exercise as you prepare the concoction. Muddling is that action by which you literally crush the ingredients to extract all the oils and aromas, as well as mash diverse additives together. Proper muddling means increasing the heart rate, applying a bit of muscle, and working up an incredible thirst.

10 Fresh mint leaves
½  Lime, cut into four wedges
2  Tablespoons white sugar, or like amount simple syrup, or sweeten to taste
1 ½ oz. white rum
½ cup club soda

Place mint leaves and 1 lime wedge into a sturdy glass. Use a muddler to crush the mint and lime to release the mint oils and lime juice. Add 2 more lime wedges and the sugar, and muddle again to release the lime juice. Do not strain the mixture.

Fill the glass almost to the top with ice. Pour the rum over the ice, and fill the glass with club soda. Stir, taste, and add more sugar if desired. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge

(Thanks to allrecipes.com and specifically to Brandy, a good name for a cocktail chef)

Pisco Punch

Back in the California Gold Rush days of the middle 1800s, people came from all over the world to find their fortune in the South Fork of the American River, and the small community of San Francisco grew to a large population center literally overnight.

Bet you are wondering how we are going to tie in cocktails and the California Gold Rush. OK, here ya go:

The gold-seeking immigrants from Chile and Peru brought with them the rum that their countries enjoyed, pisco. John Torrence, about 1850, opened a bar in San Francisco, the Bank Exchange, and he was particularly taken with pisco. So much so that his nickname became Pisco John. You could not get near the joint because of a cocktail Torrence created somewhere around 1855. He kept the ingredients to himself, so he was the only one in town able to serve the drink, Pisco Punch.

In 1973, finally, somebody spilled the beans. It was thought that the secret went to the grave with Duncan Nicol, the last owner of the Bank Exchange before Prohibition. But here it is, in unedited form, as published by the California Historical Society.

1 pineapple(s)
gum syrup
1 pint distilled water
10 ounces lemon juice
24 ounces pisco brandy

“Take a fresh pineapple, cut it in squares about 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches. Put these squares of fresh pineapple in a bowl of gum syrup* to soak overnight. That serves the double purpose of flavoring the gum syrup with the pineapple and soaking the pineapple, both of which are used afterward in the Pisco Punch.

“In the morning, mix 8 ounces of the flavored gum syrup, the water, lemon juice and pisco** in a big bowl.

“Serve very cold but be careful not to keep the ice in too long because of dilution. Use 3- or 4-ounce punch glasses. Put one of the above squares of pineapple in each glass. Lemon juice or gum syrup may be added to taste.

“For perfect authenticity, we should note, this should be made one drink at a time, as Nicol did:

“In a cocktail shaker, combine: 2 ounces pisco, 1 ounce distilled water (Nicol insisted on this), 2/3 ounce (4 teaspoons) syrup (refrigerated, this'll keep at least two or three months), 3/4 ounce lemon juice.

“Shake well, strain into a thin punch glass and garnish with syrup-soaked pineapple chunk.”

* You can find gum arabic powder in some health-food stores and at Frontiercoop.com

(Again, thanks to our friend Dave Wondrich, Esquire magazine.)

Tequila Sunrise

The soaring popularity of this drink in the 1970s gives lie to the story that it was created in the town of Tijuana, Mexico in the 1930s. Where did it go for all of those years?

At any rate, it’s with us now and is a very popular, although gimmicky, drink.

1 ½ ounces tequila
3 ounces fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon grenadine

Shake the tequila and orange juice well with cracked ice, then strain into a large, chilled cocktail glass. Pour in the grenadine and stir gently, for no longer than is necessary to produce the sunrise effect. Usually served on the rocks, in a Collins glass.

(Again, credit goes to Esquire magazine and Dave Wondrich. If you have not yet gotten the idea, Wondrich is a wonderful resource for authentic and delicious cocktail recipes. And he is entertaining.)

Now go and quench your inner beach thirst. If these drinks don’t make you think of the beach, or even book your reservations, then you have not yet let go of winter. Snap out of it.