Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fun Behind Bars: Be the Boss of Summer-Fun Cocktails

Fun Behind Bars With Dy Mixes

You can do it easier than you think!  Imagine your moment, entertaining in the back yard.  The deck is warm underfoot, the air is sweet.  You're surrounded by your friends and family.  The kids are splashing in the pool, and everything is going according to plan.  The condensation from your cocktail rolls over the back of your fingers as you raise it to your lips; everything is perfect... except your cocktail a watery mess.  You glance around surreptitiously, spying your guests' drinks and you see your own wet mess in hands all around you.  This shame is not inevitable.  A little advance planning can make you the star of the summer barbecue.

There are many variables that go into a successful get-together, and preparation will make your success look effortless. Cocktails are as important as any other element at a summer party.  If anything else goes off the rails, the drinks become even more important. That's a natural law as real as gravity.  You can protect yourself from watery drinks and make a big impact easier than you think, and the secret is simple: flavored ice cubes.  They are visually surprising, and add complexity to the drink as they melt instead of weakening it.

The first thing you'll want to do is plan what cocktails to serve on a hot, sunny day. Consider the formality of the event, the food menu, and your guests.  Summer fare tends to be light, inspired by the tropics (except in small-town Wisconsin, where there is an inexplicable allegiance to sausages and ground meat, no matter what the weather.  If you live by these traditions, read no further: serve beer.) If your palate is more seasonal and you've got "hands on" friends, you could set up a do-it-yourself mojito bar with rum, white soda, seltzer, limes and mint.  Keep some ginger ale on hand for purists.  Provide a muddler and a vessel for muddling and be on hand to offer advice, should a guest look intimidated.  To dial up your impact, puree some fruit and freeze it in ice trays.  I've had success with Mangoes and Raspberries (strain before freezing to remove seeds), and the effect is beautiful and delicious.

To me, nothing says "summer" like a gin and tonic.  After a long dormant period, gin is back in a big way. There are excellent new entries appearing in the gin category all the time, and most of the newer varieties are less juniper-forward than their ancestors.  My personal go-to favorite is Hendrick's because it is light and floral.  Keep the gin in the freezer, use small bottles of chilled tonic and warm limes (they provide more juice than chilled ones).  To create extra excitement, puree English Cucumbers and mix them with lime juice.  Freeze this fruit-and-vegetable mix in ice trays and add them to your summer G&T. If you can't get English, peel and seed cucumbers from your Farmer's Market before you puree them.

For many of us, summer means bikinis and bikinis mean Skinny Cocktails.  The skinny cocktail does not have to be boring or bland. The easiest way to skinny up your favorite cocktail is to press fresh citrus and use low-calorie modifiers like seltzer, or diet carbonated sodas.  Another clever way to make a delicious summer refresher without risking your waistline is to use the diet water-flavoring powder packets to make ice cubes for your drinks.  I used Crystal Light's Raspberry Ice flavor in mine.

Skinny Raspberry Ice Cooler
c. dy godsey
1 oz. Grey Goose
15 Flavored Ice Cubes (see below)
Combine, top with spanked Basil leaf

To make flavored ice cubes, use double the amount of flavoring recommended by the manufacturer.  If you're using Crystal Light single serving foil tubes, use two per quart of water.  Freeze into trays.  Use care in handling, as the cubes can stain. 

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