“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘The Great Gatsby’. When Fitzgerald mused about the pleasures of summer, chances are he was midway through a chilled beverage, potentially on a French terrace.
It seems like entertaining this summer season is bound to take on the frivolous and fancy vibe of ‘The Great Gatsby’, with cocktail parties, and mid-afternoon soirées on the horizon. So for my latest Ingredient of the Month, I thought June was the ideal time of year to celebrate delightful summer drinks.
Now of course summer is the perfect season to whip out a bottle of rosé or sip pastis on terraces in Paris (a popular aperitif), but let’s not forget about a whole array of other lovely summer cups and concoctions. The arrival of fresh summer produce is the perfect excuse to make your thirst-quenchers and cocktails as fancy and pretty as possible. Some people might say why bother (and focus on the food), but I say – pourquoi pas?
Serving lovely drinks really adds to a meal, and since reading this book I have a new appreciation for pairing quality drinks with quality fare. Some of my favourite cocktails are served here in Paris, so lately I’ve been taking inspiration from their beautiful presentation, and going all out with garnishes and pretty summer touches. Here are some of my ideas:
Tips for preparing summer drinks:
* Try ginger beer (as a substitute for traditional lemonade) and a ginger garnish (along with the classic slices of cucumber and mint) when serving Pimm’s. You can really try lots of different twists with Pimm’s, you just need a good base recipe to start with, and then you can start playing around. I like this classic recipe.
* Now, there’s a bit of contention around the theory that using hot water makes ice cubes freeze faster – but it’s worth a shot, right? And here are some good tips for storing ice too. Nothing more annoying than ice that tastes like random freezer contents.
* No matter how small your living space is, I think it’s important to make room for a liquor cabinet – shoe box or bookshelf – wherever you can find the space! Here are some good tips for stocking up on the basics.
For non-alcoholic drinks:
Just because you (or your guests) are not hankering for a pick-me-up, it doesn’t mean that non-alcoholic drinks need to be boring. I love creating a punch for summer afternoon tea parties, and serving it in cute tea cups.
* When planning a picnic, add a nice bottle of lemonade, iced tea or simply sparkling water to your picnic basket to cater for those not drinking alcohol.
* Frozen (seedless) grapes can add a cool summer touch to a punch bowl, or individual tumblers.
* Add mint springs to bottles of water for a fresh alternative (went a bit overboard…added a bit too much mint here!)
* Get creative with cordial. Steer clear of anything too brightly coloured – dangerous! Last time I was in Denmark I fell love with Elderflower cordial – its flavour is lovely and subtle.
* Freezing berries in ice cube trays can add a fun touch (don’t get too carried away though, or things will start to look a little too 70s dinner party vibe).
I’m looking forward to trying out some new recipes this summer, especially cocktails and punches brimming with lots of fresh fruit. Here are some ideas for you to try:
Note: Remember to drink responsibly