Labor Day weekend always seems like the last gasp of summer before fall begins in earnest. Everyone scrambles to make the most of it — one last vacation, one last trip to the lake or the beach. And, for those of us taking the simpler route and staying home — one last summer cocktail. The beauty of this cocktail lies in its simplicity. The ingredients — blueberries, lemon juice, brown sugar, ginger ale, and rum — are all easy to find, if you don't already have them at home. (I originally developed this recipe to help my friend Kendra get rid of an unwanted bottle of Bacardi Gold, but any kind of rum will do.) And there are no pre-made ingredients (except for the crushed ice), and almost no tools required, making this a (very nearly) labor-free Labor Day cocktail.
• What if you can't find fresh blueberries? Frozen ones will work just as well. Here's an easy way to thaw them quickly: fill a glass with hot water (from the tap; just run the water until it's as hot as it can get). Drop the desired amount of blueberries in the glass, wait a few minutes, and strain out the water. Voila! Un-frozen blueberries.
• How does one make crushed ice? You can do this in a blender with an 'ice crush' setting, or use my preferred method, which is to put a bunch of ice cubes in a ziplock bag and beat them mercilessly with a rolling pin. (A lot of directions I've seen say to wrap the ice in a towel, but I find this frustrating, as the ice inevitably sticks to the towel.)
Fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 ounces rum
Cover the bottom of an old-fashioned glass or mason jar with blueberries. (If you're using a smaller glass, make a double layer.) Add the brown sugar and lemon juice and muddle (or smoosh with the back of a spoon) until the sugar is melted. The idea is to break the skins of the blueberries, but not to mash them into a pulp. Fill the glass with crushed ice and then add the rum. Top with ginger ale and stir.
Nancy Mitchell lives in Houston, Texas, the hottest city on earth. Find other cooling summer cocktail recipes on her blog, the Backyard Bartender.
(Images: Nancy Mitchell)