Being essentially a lazy person, I find that container gardening is the only horticulture for me (cue Dorothy Parker quote here). It's a very small amount of effort for a great deal of validation: riotous color in exchange for some dirt and water. Here I proudly pose my red, white and blue gardening just in time for the 4th of July holiday.
Container cocktails are in the same spirit. A small amount of energy is placed into the right pitcher of drinks, and riotous colorful dialogue blooms among the summer barbecue guests.
On the lookout for some summer holiday entertainment ideas, I found a couple recipes in a recent New York Magazine issue. Of the four highlighted container cocktails, I found that the simplest were the best, and that works out just perfectly because who has time for a 17-ingredient punch? It's summer. The living is supposed to be easy, and the guests will be here any minute.
Pictured above is the Elder Berry Smash developed by London mixologist Charlotte Voisey for the New York City restaurant Kenmare, a Mediterranean restaurant with an Irish name. The super-sized cocktail was very easy to make and a big hit with the guests who long ago have stopped being polite about the way I experiment on them. They would have told me if they didn't like it, in no uncertain terms.
Elder Berry Smash
1 cup of blackberries
9 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
Lime juice from 3 whole limes
8 oz. Champagne or a sparkling wine
6 sprigs of mint
Muddle blackberries in the bottom of a pitcher. Add St. Germain and lime juice, followed by crushed ice, leaving room for the champagne. Top with Champagne, garnish with mint sprigs. Stir just before pouring and serve in fluted glasses. Serves 6.
The other popular recipe was deemed the Farmer's Friend, but it was really a mojito with a surprise variation – rhubarb. While checking out at the supermarket, the cashier asked me what rhubarb tasted like: "is it like celery?" No. Most definitely not, I responded. People make pies out this – with a lot of sugar! I told her about my beverage plans, and she was enthused. With good reason. The drink was a success. I'd say that the party was split 50-50. Half of the imbibers liked the Smash, the other half liked the Farmer's Friend. All love a good muddle apparently.
By Ron Levine, Anfora
2 handfuls of mint leaves, torn
2 cups rhubarb (about 4 stalks), sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
16 oz. white rum
8 oz. simple syrup
4 oz. fresh lime juice
Club soda (approximately 6 oz.)
Muddle mint leaves with rhubarb at the bottom of the pitcher. Add ice, and pour rum, simple syrup, and lime juice over mixture. Stir, and top with club soda. Pour in rocks glasses. Serves 8.
Container gardening is perfect gardening for cocktail hour. A plant here and there, a sip and a sit, and an admiring gaze toward all that hard work.
You don't want any operation of heavy equipment while mixing up pitchers of white sangria for your guests. This version calls for the addition of vodka, a good segue way toward "the Russian spy that lives next door" as a party conversation.
A Vodka Sangria, pictured below, from The Bar:
1 bottle of a dry white wine
6 oz. Vodka
3 oz. Grand Marnier
3 oz. pomegranate juice
3 oz. orange juice
2 oz. white grape juice
3 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. simple syrup
Simply mix all liquid ingredients in a pitcher and garnish with raspberries and lemon wheels. Couldn't be any more effortless and that's perfect for a hot summer's happy hour. Happy Fourth!