It’s here. Summertime has arrived to every sector of the Gulf Coast, and we are all either complaining about the heat and the humidity, or we embrace the pair as the perfect antidote to cold winters, which we really don’t have but why mess up a good story.
Sometimes we do both, complain and enjoy. And then there are the assorted invading hordes of Midwesterners, Northerners, visitors from the Rockies to the Smokies, even Europeans intent on soaking up both the warming rays of the sun and some culture depicted in film and literature. At this time of year, we lack nothing by way of guests, sunscreen and traffic.
Our normally uncrowded beaches now have blankets, coolers and chairs galore, each area defined by the shade of an umbrella of varying size. The bigger the umbrella, the bigger the shade and the more real estate the beach lover is entitled to. There are usually afternoon showers and thunderstorms so the umbrellas serve double-duty.
This is our time of year, when it seems the entire world wants to be where we are year-round. Thank you all for coming. Enjoy yourselves, and if there is anything you need, it’s likely at Publix or Winn-Dixie or at that bait shop just down from your accommodations.
While our guests are discovering the culinary charms of fried mullet, grouper, Apalachicola Oysters, puppy drum, corn bread, sweet tea, poor boys, snowballs, watermelon, peaches, snap beans and strawberries, we will be sitting back in a relaxed position, maybe even in air conditioned comfort, sipping on something appropriate for the season. We know what our guests don’t: "hurry" is not an acceptable speed right now.
So let’s go slow, be as cool as we can be (both in temperature and temperament) and enjoy some beverages that bring us refreshment, specifically designed for the season.
We start with a drink that seems to get changed, not always for the better, at every bar it is featured. Don’t know why all the experimentation and need to alter something that is practically perfect as invented.
The Original Pina Colada
As invented and served at the Beachcomber Bar in the Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1954.
2 ounces white rum
1 ounce coconut cream
1 ounce heavy cream
6 ounces fresh pineapple juice
1/2 cup crushed ice
Add the rum, coconut cream, heavy cream and pineapple juice together in a blender. Add the ice and blend for about 15 seconds or until smooth. Serve in a 12-ounce glass. Garnish with a fresh pineapple wedge and a maraschino cherry.
While we are on the subject of perfect summertime cocktails, one of my very favorites is a Planter’s Punch.
There are stories that this drink originated at the Planter’s Hotel in Charleston, S.C., but there are records in London periodicals dating back to 1878 that refer to this drink as being Jamaican in origin. Since that is likely the origin of the dark rum that is the heart of this cocktail, I subscribe to that story.
What you want to be careful of in a Planter’s Punch is the level of sweetness in the drink. I am not a big fan of overly sweet drinks, preferring citrus to sugar. Just about every ingredient in the Planter’s Punch is sugar-based so this concoction can go sweet very quickly. Sometimes too sweet. If you prefer something less so, as do I, pull back on the grenadine and the sugar, possibly increasing the proportion of rum and citrus.
As featured on About.com, Cocktails
2 ounces dark rum, suggest Meyer’s
1/4 ounce grenadine
equal parts sour mix and either pineapple or orange juice to fill
club soda (very optional)
maraschino cherry for garnish
lemon or orange slice for garnish
Pour rum, grenadine and juice mix into shaker with ice. Vigorously shake. Strain into highball glass filled with ice cubes. Pour into tall cocktail/highball glass. Add club soda, if desired. Garnish.
For some reasons that have been lost to past generations, New Orleans has embraced Pimm’s Cups as a delightful summertime staple. And it is a hot-weather favorite but why an English drink made inroads into a French/Spanish community is beyond understanding, like so many other aspects of that special city. Making the mystery even deeper, the place to get a definitive Pimm’s Cup is the Napoleon House in the middle of the French Quarter. Go figure that a Creole Bar named after a French Emperor would feature an English drink.
Anyway, Pimm’s is a liqueur and the company was founded by Englishman James Pimm, with production of his first of seven “cups” in 1823. No. 1 remains the most famous version, as it always has been.
Courtesy of Chow
1/2-inch thick English cucumber wheel
1/2-inch thick lemon wheel
2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
4 ounces 7-UP, lemon-lime soda or ginger ale
Gently muddle the cucumber and lemon slices in a chilled highball glass. Pour in the Pimm’s and 7-UP, lemon-lime soda or ginger ale, and stir to combine. Add ice to fill the glass and garnish with the lemon twist.
Finally we come to that most Southern of all the cocktails, the Mint Julep. Where exactly this drink originated, and what were the original ingredients, are facts lost to time and memories no longer with us.
But we do know that it is a very old drink, probably first noted in the early 1800s. We also know that the drink likely began in Virginia or the Carolinas. While the drink is now very much associated with the Kentucky Derby, it certainly did not originate there or even in that state. In fact it is even possible that Kentucky Bourbon was not the original spirit in the drink with indications that Rye Whiskey was the original choice.
The Mint Julep demands the proper glass, or to be more correct, a metallic receptacle. It’s an old-fashion glass, usually silver but I’ve seen pewter. Also, the mint is the absolute key. Must be fresh and bright. Gentlemen have fought duels over less weighty matters.
With loving recognition to David Wondrich, The Wondrich Take, Esquire
Many fresh, moist sprigs of mint
1 teaspoon of sugar
3 ounces of Kentucky Bourbon, Buffalo Trace, Rebel Yell, Maker’s Mark or the equivalent
Place 5 or 6 leaves of mint in the bottom of a prechilled, dry 12-ounce glass or silver beaker. Add sugar and crush slightly with a muddler. Pack glass with finely cracked ice. Pour a generous 3 ounces of Kentucky bourbon over the ice. Stir briskly until the glass frosts. Add more ice and stir again before serving. Stick a few sprigs of mint into the ice so that the partaker will get the aroma.
And there you have it. A few drinks, with history, guaranteed to cool you off whether you are at the beach, sitting in your backyard, or just on the back porch waiting for that afternoon shower.
Summer does not mean sitting inside and waiting for October. Enjoy it. It’s our time.