The ice cream truck may have shunned the streets of the deep-woods neighborhood I grew up in, but my parents made sure that my brother and I didn't miss out on the joy of a Popsicle on a hot summer day. They kept a second freezer in the basement, and though I'm sure it was used for important things like storing meat, vegetables, and the odd set of important documents, it was reliably stocked with what seemed to be a never-ending supply of Flav-Or-Ice Pops. The large blue box sat plainly within our reach on the bottom shelf, so my brother and I helped ourselves whenever a craving struck.
Twenty years later, the sweet relief I seek on a hot summer day has turned more liquid in nature. Although I'll never quite get over the nostalgia of a simple, brightly colored ice pop, time changes things. In this case, it's for the better. After all, what higher honor could a childhood favorite achieve other than growing up itself?
As much as I love to entertain, the thought of pouring individually layered cocktails for all of my guests just doesn't excite me. Enter: the pitcher cocktail. This statement drink does take some time and patience to craft, but the beauty of it is that you can prepare it in advance and just stash it in the fridge before your party. Now you're free to deliver the pitcher to your guests with a flourish, give it a stir, and get right back into rotation for giant Jenga and bag toss in the backyard.
Like you might expect of a popsicle-inspired drink, this cocktail is very sweet when poured directly from the pitcher. To even it out, instruct your guests to top their serving with a festive, sparkling pour of club soda or brut Champagne. The choice is yours depending, of course, on what kind of night you're planning to have.
Bomb Pop Cocktail Pitcher
3/4 cup blueberry jelly beans
2 cups vodka
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups water
Ice, for serving (optional)
Chilled club soda or dry sparkling wine, for serving
24 hours before you plan to serve the cocktail: Combine the jelly beans and vodka in a large bowl or quart-sized Mason jar. Stir or shake to combine. Cover tightly and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours.
Line a sieve with a coffee filter or a layer of cheesecloth, and place over a medium bowl. Carefully remove the lid from the infused vodka, and use a ladle to transfer the infused liquid to the sieve. Be careful not to disturb the jelly beans at the bottom, as they've released a bit of their waxy coating which can clog the filter. Once you've scooped and strained as much of the vodka as possible without stirring the jelly beans, replace the filter or cheesecloth and pour the remaining candy and vodka in. Let filter until all of the remaining alcohol has passed through. Discard the spent jelly beans. Seal the vodka in a covered jar and store in the refrigerator.
Make the pomegranate syrup: For the syrup, place 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and all of the pomegranate juice in a small saucepan. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 5 minutes to reduce. Remove from the heat and carefully pour into a heatproof container. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill.
Make the lemonade concentrate: Combine the lemon juice, water, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a microwave-safe container. Microwave for 30-second intervals, stirring well after each interval, just until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill.
Preparing the cocktail: Pour 2 cups of chilled pomegranate syrup into the bottom of your pitcher, trying not to get too much on the walls of the container.
Pour the chilled lemonade concentrate into a tall glass bottle, fitted with a vented pour top. Hold a long spoon against the edge of the pitcher, about 1/8 inch above the level of the pomegranate syrup. Block the dispenser with your finger, and carefully invert it. Using your fingertip to block the flow, slowly dispense the lemonade concentrate on top of the pomegranate syrup. Do not try to rush this; the slower you go, the more defined your layer will be. Move the spoon up to maintain a small gap between it and the top of the liquid. Repeat with the chilled infused vodka.
Once your pitcher has been layered, carefully transfer it to the fridge. It will be quite stable at this point, so gentle shaking won't disturb the layers — but do not stir or drop ice into the pitcher.
When you're ready to serve, deliver the pitcher to your guests with much fanfare. After everyone has fully absorbed the beauty of this patriotic treat, give it a good stir. Serve in 4 1/2-ounce portions in tall glasses with ice if desired, topped with an equal to double amount of club soda or sparkling wine.
- Lower-sugar variation: If the order of the layers is of particular importance to you, don't adjust the amount of sugar in this drink. However, if the order of the layers is not a huge deal, omit the sugar from the lemon layer and reduce the sugar in the pomegranate layer to 1 cup. Layer the pomegranate syrup first in the pitcher, then the vodka, and then the lemon mixture for a drink that is layered red, blue, then white from bottom to top.
- Make ahead: After the cocktail has been layered, it can be covered and stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve. The middle layer will settle slightly over time to become even whiter, so making it in advance isn't a bad idea. For the sake of freshness, however, I wouldn't layer it more than 2 days before you plan to serve.
- Quick variation: For a quicker "cheater" version of this drink, begin by mixing 1 cup of vodka with 1 cup of Sprite. Pour 2 cups of grenadine into your pitcher and top with the Sprite mixture. Float 2 cups of blue curacao on top.