Cocktails as pretty as a pitcher
The heat index is 143 degrees. The humidity is, oh, at least 120 percent. It’s nuts out there — and if it isn’t now, it soon will be.
What could be more cooling, more refreshing, than a tall, icy pitcher of drinks? Can’t you see the drops of condensation rolling slowly down the side?
A pitcher of drinks means fun, it means companionship and camaraderie. It means spending time with old friends and making new ones. It means laughter; it means love.
And if you’re drinking it all by yourself, it means you have a problem.
But otherwise, a pitcher of drinks is a clear indication that you’re in for a good time. Bring it to the beach and set it in the sand. Pour it into plastic cups at the lake. If you’re lucky enough, mix one up on a boat. Have it on the front porch, or the back porch, or out in the courtyard.
Good times guaranteed.
Best of all, they don’t take much time or effort to make. You can whip up a batch and be back to your guests before they know you’re gone. Or you can get a pitcher or two ready even before they arrive.
It was a blisteringly hot day when I made mine — you could fry a chicken on the sidewalk — so I made five different pitchers. Each was better than the next. Or maybe than the last. It’s hard to tell when you’ve had five pitchers of drinks.
I began with a favorite concoction I always make when I am at a beach. It’s a fruity rum drink, which is the perfect accompaniment to crashing waves and an unrelenting sun. Because it has six ingredients, I’m calling it Six on the Beach.
It’s an orange, mango and pineapple juice drink, with rum to taste (I like to use a lot), ice to cool it down and a dose of grenadine to add a gorgeous color to the glass.
Only the juice and rum go into the pitcher. Put ice in the glass, pour in the drink and then splash a little grenadine on top. The grenadine will quickly sink to the bottom, giving you a lovely two-tone effect, like a tequila sunrise.
Next, I whipped up a batch of traditional Spanish sangria with a twist. The twist is that it’s a traditional Spanish sangria. That means no brandy, no rum, no added juice, no soda water or soft drink, not even any added sugar (but if you want to add a little sugar, go ahead. Let’s not be too fussy about it).
This is the way they drink sangrias in Spain, or at least the way they used to. You take a reasonably good, lightly fruity red wine from the Rioja region in Spain (though any lightly fruity red wine from anywhere will do. Again, no need to be fussy). Add slices of oranges and lemon, and maybe chunks of apple and peach.
That’s all there is to it. I went totally wild and also threw in a cinnamon stick, though I honestly don’t think I could taste it in the drink. You have to let this sangria sit in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the juice from the fruit slowly permeate the wine.
My next pitcher was basil mojitos. The more familiar version of this drink is the mint mojito, but remember: basil is closely related to mint. And if you make basil mojitos, it gives you the rare chance to use lime basil vodka.
A pitcher of basil mojitos is made the same way as a pitcher of mint mojitos. You put lime juice, basil leaves and superfine sugar (you can make your own by putting regular sugar in a blender) in a pitcher. Crush the basil leaves with a wooden spoon and stir it until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lime basil vodka and stir.
But then you’re faced with an important question: Do you add club soda to the pitcher, or do you stir it into the glass after you’ve poured in the rest of the mixture? It actually depends on how quickly you are likely to drink the whole pitcher. If you and your friends are likely to go through it all soon, go ahead and add the soda to the pitcher.
There is no such question with my next drink, which has the unfortunate name of Piña Colada Sangria. The name is unfortunate because I am not personally a fan of piña coladas, and it is about as far from a traditional Spanish sangria as you can get.
On the other hand, it is light and refreshing and delicious. So there’s that.
You take a couple of bottles of moscato wine, a can of crushed pineapple and a cup and a half of coconut rum. Toss it in a pitcher, shove the pitcher into a refrigerator overnight, and you’re good to go.
For my last drink, I made margaritas. I am not a big fan of margaritas, because I don’t like cheap tequila. And using expensive tequila to make a margarita would be akin to spiking a bowl of Hawaiian Punch with 18-year-old Macallan scotch.
So I used cheap tequila. And although you can make a margarita with Cointreau, provided you have money to burn, I made mine with triple sec. I hand-squeezed limes to make the fresh lime juice, and I made my own superfine sugar, again, in the blender.
I am still not a fan of margaritas. But it was 96 degrees out, and I was a (literal) hot mess. And the margarita tasted just fine.
Six On the Beach
Note: Orange-mango juice is an acceptable substitute for the orange and mango juices, if you can find it.
2 cups orange juice, see note
1 cup mango juice, see note
1 cup pineapple juice
3/4 cup to 1 cup rum, depending on how strong you want it
4 tablespoons grenadine
In a pitcher, mix together fruit juices and rum. Fill 4 glasses with ice, and add drink. Pour 1 tablespoon of grenadine over each glass and allow red color to sink to the bottom before serving, about 1 minute. Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 275 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1 g protein; 43 g carbohydrate; 31 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 10 mg sodium; 29 mg calcium
Note: To make superfine sugar, place sugar in a blender and blend for 10 seconds.
32 leaves of basil
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup superfine sugar, plus more for coating glass rims, see note
1 1/2 cups lime basil vodka
1 lime wedge
2 cups club soda or seltzer
Place the basil, lime juice and 1/3 cup of the sugar in a pitcher. Crush the basil leaves with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the vodka and stir vigorously to combine and dissolve the sugar. If drinking quickly, stir in the club soda or seltzer.
Pour more sugar on a plate. Use the lime wedge to wet the rim of each glass, and place glass upside-down on the sugar. It will adhere to the rim. Add ice to the glass. If club soda or seltzer was added to the pitcher, pour drink over ice. If pitcher does not have club soda or seltzer, pour about 2 1/2 ounces from pitcher into a glass, top with club soda or seltzer, and stir. Serves 8.
Per serving: 107 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 11 g carbohydrate; 10 g sugar; no fiber; 13 mg sodium; 10 mg calcium
Piña Colada Sangria
Recipe from wineandglue.com
2 bottles moscato wine
1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple
1 1/2 cups coconut rum
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Refrigerate overnight, and serve chilled. Makes 20 servings.
Per serving: 101 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 6 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; no fiber; 4 mg sodium; 11 mg calcium
Margaritas By the Pitcher
Note: To make superfine sugar, place sugar in a blender and blend for 10 seconds. Recipe adapted from liquor.com
1 1/2 cups fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, see note
1 1/2 cups triple sec or Cointreau
1 bottle tequila
Place lime juice and sugar in a pitcher. Stir with a long spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add triple sec and tequila, and stir to combine. Chill, or shake with ice before serving.
To serve, pour salt onto a plate. Wet the lip of each glass with the lime wedge and place the glass upside-down onto the plate. The salt will adhere to the glass. Pour drink over ice or not, depending on your taste. Makes about 16 servings.
Per serving: 182 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 21 g carbohydrate; 19 g sugar; no fiber; 1 mg sodium; 6 mg calcium