Recently friends of ours got married in a remote, a.k.a. no cell service, Catskill's resort. This resulted in a long overdue trek through New York's Hudson Valley. We hadn't been back in those parts since I graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in 1999. The long weekend road trip right on the heels of a late spring heatwave and a tiny bottle of homemade Limoncello became the inspiration for this week's 10-Minute Happy Hour.
We spent the wedding weekend eating and drinking our way through river towns. Along the way we stayed at a quirky bed and breakfast in Red Hook and mingled with the locals — or what my grandmother would call "freeze-dried hippies" — in Woodstock. The scenery and food were killer. Our parting wedding favor was a small bottle of homemade Limoncello, which sparked the conversation for our long ride home. What makes the ultimate summer cocktail? Here's what I came up with:
Rules for Making the Perfect Summertime Drink:
1. It can't be too sweet.
2. It must be refreshing. (A follow up to rule No. 1!)
3. It can't be a shorty. We're thirsty in the summer so it's gotta be a long drink. Sorry Martini.
4. It can't be too strong. Drinking alcohol in the heat can be dangerous so it needs to stay on the softer side.
5. It must have lots of ice, but it can't be frozen. I love frozen drinks, but I don't want to bust out the blender every time I'm thirsty.
6. No obscure ingredients or tools should be in play. It's summertime and the drinks should be easy and relaxing, like putting on a pair of flip-flops.
With these rules in place, I took cues from two cocktails I adore — Bee's Knees and the French 75. Both gin-based, which is always a great start for a killer summer cocktail — need I remind you of the beloved G&T?! Each has simple syrup and fresh squeezed lemon juice, and basically, you can substitute Limoncello in any cocktail that calls for that combo.
Limoncello is easy to make from scratch, but since we're working on the clock for a quick and happy Happy Hour, you can easily purchase a bottle of this lovely Italian liqueur. This is a great short cut to making a new batch of simple syrup, too! I know rule No. 5 says no obscure ingredients, and I am happy to say Limoncello is no longer obscure. I can even find it easily and I live in Pennsylvania (one of the wonkiest states when it comes to liquor laws).
Add some chilled club soda to check off rules 2 and 3, and you're in for a perfect summer sip in less than 10 minutes time.
What are your rules for a great summer drink? What's your favorite warm weather cocktail?
Limoncello Gin Cocktail
1 ounce Limoncello
1 ounce gin
4 ounces club soda
Lots of ice
Lemon peel, for garnish
Fill a tall glass with ice and add the Limoncello and gin. Top with the club soda and stir. Garnish and Enjoy.
(Images: Maureen Petrosky)