surf globally, pour locally, drink responsibly
September 24, 2012

Mixology with Ingredients from your Pantry and Fridge
By Shelby Lynne

We’ve all been to restaurants and bars with fabulous cocktails that we think we could never reproduce at home. However, not only can you create some delicious home-made cocktails, you can do so using items that are already in your pantry and fridge!

My favorite summer time go-to (for me and a friend or a last-minute get together) is to make some sort of Aquas Frescas, which is a very popular Mexican street cart beverage. You can easily make one of your own using just about any fruit you have around. Some of my favorites include: watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, pineapple, mango, and guava. To make a batch in a cinch, all you need are 6 cups of chopped fruit, 3 cups of water, ½ cup of sugar, and the juice from half a lime. Blend all of that until it’s completely smooth and add more sugar, lime or water if you prefer a thinner consistency. If desired, you can strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth, but I often skip that step. Once the ingredients have been fully blended, pour them into a large punch bowl or pitcher and add whatever liquor you have available (tequila is my favorite, but rum, vodka or gin works just as well). To keep the punch cold, I suggest freezing medium-sized baggies of water so that when added to the punch bowl, they won’t water down your creation too quickly. For an added touch, if you have any berries lying around, throw a few in the baggie before freezing. As the ice slowly melts, the berries rise to the surface and add beautiful color. Sometimes I add a little club soda for some fizz, or some mint from my little herb garden, but no matter what, I promise you will have guests begging you for your recipe before the night is through. The leftovers will last a day or two in the fridge (that is if you even have any left).

Most of us have an assortment of veggies in our fridges as well. If you have cucumbers and some spicy peppers, you can make one of my favorite cocktails of all time … the spicy cucumber margarita. This recipe works well with clear liquors as well. Simply dice cucumber and add a small palmful to your glass, then add a bit of chopped or sliced spicy peppers (be careful – the heat will increase over time). I like to remove the seeds because this keeps the spice level under control, but it depends on your taste. I also prefer to muddle the cucumbers and peppers together with the liquor. I then add the juice of a lime or two and some sugar, honey or agave nectar, and BAM … it’s my perfect pool time refreshment. (Note: if you’re not a fan of spice, substitute the spicy peppers for mixed green, yellow, red and/or orange bells.)

Now, do you have any sorbet in your freezer? Simply melt any flavor and then slowly add it to any white wine (taste often before adding more sorbet), stir thoroughly, and top with club soda. This makes an amazing on-the-fly sangria/punch. Add some herbs from your garden or fresh or frozen fruit if you have any available.

What if you have some good quality fruit preserves or marmalades in the fridge just taking up space? Take your desired liquor and add 1 tablespoon (or to taste) of your choice of preserves. I suggest tequila with orange marmalade. Stir vigorously and add some fresh hand squeezed lime or lemon juice – strain, and there you have my favorite late night patio sipper.

You can also try making lemonade using a powdered mix by simply following the package directions, adding a liquor of your choosing, and, if you have it around, add some mint, thyme or berries The same can be done with any powdered drink mix. Do you have Kool-aid packets? Why not take a few different complimentary flavors, make the packets according to the directions, add whatever liquor you desire, and top with club soda (or you can ease up on the sugar and use Sprite/7up instead.)

Just remember, be creative, take chances, and trust your instincts. You never know what fabulous cocktails you can come up with without even leaving the house. So get to mixing and you can kick up your feet and relax with your delicious cocktail creation on a balmy summer night. Ahhh … sounds good, doesn’t it?

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