There is an old adage that demands you bring out the brown liquors, the bourbon, the whiskey, the dark rum, when the weather turns cold. With the winter we have had here in the Northeast, I say, let’s throw out the rules and do whatever we can to combat the epidemic of seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Bring out the lemons, limes, the vodkas and gins, and pretend we are in summer, sipping a Back-Porch Lemonade.
One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a copy of The Art of the Bar by bartenders Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz. A beautifully arranged and photographed book, it has been highly useful, this January, in getting through the blizzards which are occurring like clockwork, much like the thunderstorms in Tampa but with admittedly greater probabilities for school cancellations the next day.
The Art of the Bar has the usual classic cocktail recipes; your martinis, margaritas and Manhattans, and the space-wasting “How To Stock Your Bar,” but the drinks that make a snow day a delight are the lesser-known cocktails. Experiment. Have fun. You’ll be surprised at how squeezing a fresh lemon will cheer you up. You’ll notice that it’s getting lighter later.
One of the first things necessary in working your way through the book is making syrups, both simple and flavored. Begin with the Ginger Simple Syrup, from there you can go on to many weather-warding drinks like the Back-Porch Lemonade pictured below with a contrarian lime wedge:
Ginger Simple Syrup:
2 oz. ginger, thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
Combine the ginger, sugar, water and peppercorns in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue simmering for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the syrup smells very gingery. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Strain the syrup through a sieve, transfer to a bottle and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Makes about 1 1/2 cup.
The Back-Porch Lemonade demands some further preparation, but then again, what else are you going to do? Shovel?
Back-Porch Lemonade Premix (with measurement modifications from the original recipe):
3/4 cup Ginger Syrup
3/4 lemon juice
3/4 cup cranberry juice
Use a funnel to fill an empty bottle with equal parts Ginger Syrup and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Then add cranberry juice until you get a nice shade of pink. Cover and shake. The premix will last one week refrigerated.
Fill ice-filled glass with:
2 oz. premix (above)
2 oz. citrus-flavored vodka
Ginger ale to fill
Lemon wedge for garnish.
For the children, you can omit the vodka, and it makes a good kiddie cocktail. And speaking of the kiddies, doesn’t the Ginger Rogers sound like it would be a good beverage for the toddler set? Like a Shirley Temple or a Luke Skywalker, as it was called in my youth, but the Ginger Rogers in bar actuality, with its combination of gin and ginger (get it?) is no child’s play.
The Ginger Rogers, the ancestor to the mojito that is both less sweet and more sweetly old-fashioned:
8 to 10 mint leaves
1/2 oz. ginger syrup
1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
Lime wedge for garnish
Muddle the mint leaves lightly in a tall glass with the ginger syrup until the mint begins to release its aroma. Fill the glass with ice and add the gin and lime juice. Top with ginger ale. Stir well from the bottom up to mix. Garnish with lime wedge.
My street still resembles a luge run within which my mini cooper lurches from side to side, slamming ice walls as I slide down to the main intersection, but at home, watching the snow fall, I’m starting a lavender honey simple syrup that promises spring.