Spring has finally sprung, and with the promise of longer days, warmer weather and abundant sunshine comes the opportunity to dig that shovel out of storage and start sprucing up your home garden. As you begin prepping your space for this year’s harvest and picking the types of produce that you’ll have readily available as the season progresses, make a point of including the following three tasty cocktails on any menu you create for the plethora of patio parties and backyard barbecues you plan on hosting this spring and summer.
SPICY CUCUMBER MARGARITA
When it comes to the many different types of fruits and vegetables people commonly grow in their gardens each season, cucumbers are one variety that frequently makes the list. Easy to grow in an assortment of climates—as well as anywhere from spacious backyard garden plots to small pots on tiny apartment patios—this versatile vegetable is the perfect fit for a wide array of menu items—including cocktails. Switch things up this spring and trade your favorite lime-flavored refreshment for this twist on the typical margarita that replaces the usual fruits with cucumber slices—and also adds a kick of spice to keep things interesting.
8 ounces tequila
4 ounces fresh lime juice
2 ounces fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons agave nectar syrup
2 cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 small jalapenos, thinly sliced
Garnishes: Very thinly-sliced cucumber rounds, extra jalapeno slices, and lime wedges
SALT RIM INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt (coarse)
2 tablespoons sugar
To make the margarita, combine the tequila, lime juice, agave nectar syrup, orange juice, and cucumber slices in a blender. Pulse the ingredients until the mixture is smooth (about one minute). Strain out the liquid from the blender into a cocktail shaker. Next, add the jalapeno slices to the cocktail shaker, muddling them until the margarita mixture has reached your desired level of heat. Add a handful of ice to the cocktail shaker, and then vigorously shake the mixture for a few seconds to chill the margarita ingredients. Once the margarita is chilled, immediately strain the mixture into serving glasses that have been rimmed with a sweet chili rim salt (see instructions for this below). Fill the rimmed glasses with ice, and top the spicy cucumber margarita with the garnishes of your choice.
SWEET CHILI RIM SALT DIRECTIONS:
Combine the chili powder, kosher salt, and sugar in a small bowl and whisk the ingredients until they are well-combined. Next, take a lime wedge and run it around the entire edge of your margarita serving glasses. Once the rim of the glass has been coated with lime juice, dip it into the sweet chili salt mixture until the rim of the glass is coated. Repeat this step with the remaining margarita glasses, serve and enjoy!
Makes four servings. Recipe courtesy of Gimme Some Oven.
BLACKBERRY LEMON GIN & TONIC
Nothing says “summer” like sipping on an ice-cold margarita, but if this tequila-infused beverage that has been popular for decades doesn’t make the cut when you’re creating your list of go-to libations for the season, don’t worry: We’ve still got you covered. A unique take on the usual gin and tonic, this dolled-up version of the classic concoction calls for fresh blackberries, lemons and mint leaves—all of which can come from your own backyard if you plan your garden plot out properly at the start of the growing season.
2 lemons (extra for garnish)
20 mint leaves (extra for garnish)
1/4 cup simple syrup
12 ounces gin
In each of your four cocktail glasses combine three blackberries, five mint leaves, the juice from half of a lemon and one tablespoon of simple syrup. Muddle these four ingredients in each glass until they are well-combined and the berries are fully crushed. Next, fill the glasses to the top with ice; then add three ounces of gin to each cocktail glass and stir the mixture. To finish the drink, top each glass with a splash of tonic water and garnish them with a blackberry, mint leaves and a slice of lemon.
Makes four servings. Recipe courtesy of Spoon Fork Bacon.
CHAMPAGNE GRAPEFRUIT MOJITO
Kicking back with a cocktail is one activity that shouldn’t be reserved for only the hours following 5 p.m. So if you, too, ascribe to the notion that “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” whip up a batch of these unique Champagne grapefruit mojitos the next time you decide to host a boozy brunch with your closest friends—or desperately need to nurse a hellish hangover but are searching for a cocktail that’s a little bit classier than your typical hair-of-the-dog concoction.
3 ounces rum
1/3 cup Champagne
1 tablespoon agave nectar syrup
12 mint leaves
1 cup ice (large cubes)
Start by cutting the grapefruit and the lime into wedges and juicing them into a cocktail shaker. Once the fruits have been fully juiced, toss the grapefruit and lime wedges into the cocktail shaker, along with the agave nectar syrup and the mint leaves. Muddle the mixture inside the cocktail shaker to combine all of the ingredients and release their flavors. Next, pour in the rum and shake up the mixture for a few seconds.
Using a spoon, remove and discard the grapefruit and lime wedges from the shaker; then divide the cocktail mixture evenly between each glass. Fill the remainder of the cocktail glasses to the brim with Champagne, and stir the mixture to ensure the ingredients are fully combined. Garnish your buzz-inducing breakfast-time beverage with a freshly cut wedge of grapefruit and a sprig of mint and enjoy!
Makes two servings. Recipe courtesy of Call Me PMC.
If beer is more your libation of choice, then try this deliciously crisp IPA from Boulevard Brewing Company.
Space Camper Cosmic IPA
Boulevard Brewing Company
Review by: Brian Ledtke
About the beer and brewery:
Boulevard Brewing Company, founded in 1989 in Kansas City, Missouri, is the largest specialty craft brewery in the Midwest. You can find their beers in 41 states, 11 countries, and counting. In fact, it’s the 12th-largest craft brewery in the United States, making it all the crazier that I had never tried one of their beers before.
Boulevard’s desire for their newest year-round beer is to create an India pale ale (IPA) with only a minimal amount of the bitterness that is characteristic of many IPAs. They call it an “exhilarating initiation into an alternate universe of IPAs.” Additionally, Boulevard has even created an online video game to pair with the beer reminiscent of Space Invaders. Admittedly, I spent about 45 minutes playing this game at work, you know, for research purposes.
This beer is described as having flavors of fresh citrus, stone fruit, and watermelon. I’m usually more of a stout guy, and when I do drink IPAs, I prefer them to be as hoppy and bitter as possible. So, I was a bit hesitant after reading the description of this beer and worried it would taste too fruity, more like a sour fruit beer than an IPA.
Myself, and my taste buds, are happy to report that this is a delightfully hoppy IPA that features subtle flavors rather than being fruit-forward. Instead, the fruit complements the hoppy-ness rather than overpowers it.
But let’s backtrack a moment. First off, I love the design of the can. Its space theme is eye-catching, as is the title itself—a Cosmic IPA. The importance of having an eye-catching can or bottle is key when it’s so easy to be drowned in beer choices at supermarkets or specialty stores like Total Wine.
I pop the top and get aromas of peach and pineapple. The bitterness is still there but it certainly takes a backseat, unlike many IPAs I’ve had. It’s crisp, refreshing, hoppy, and would be perfect for a warm summer night on the patio with a cigar. Speaking of cigars …
When I took my first sip, I immediately thought, “Wow, that’s cosmic ….” Not really, but I can see why they called it a Cosmic IPA. It’s different than any other IPA I’ve tasted. Dare I say, it’s out of this world? Space Camper is an excellent gateway IPA for anyone looking to dip their toe into the bitter world of IPAs. We highly recommend this beer and can’t wait to try more from Boulevard Brewing Company.
For more info, visit boulevard.com.