Move over, Shirley Temple. “Soft” cocktails are growing up.
This is the philosophy of the folks behind the bar at New York’s Eleven Madison Park. Here, alongside the usual booze-laden summer classics, is an intoxicating array of alcohol-free composed drinks.
We stopped by on a hair-curlingly muggy day earlier this week, and sampled a few tall, cool originals.
First up was the Chicha Fizz (top), the most strikingly exotic of the bunch. The secret ingredient here is, well, chicha - a traditional, unfermented Peruvian concoction made from blue corn, slow-simmered with fruit and spices. It was unlike anything we’d ever tasted. A subtle mix of savory and sweet, spiked with lime and mellowed with agave nectar, it was just what the doctor ordered.
After that we moved on to more familiar fare, a gourmet spin on iced tea: La Bohème Noir (above). The secret here lies in the top-shelf ingredients: lavender-infused honey, elderflower cordial, and black tea. A far cry from Nestea…
And finally, “one more for the road” in this alcohol-free bender, came The Elixir (below), a very grown-up take on lemonade, served over crushed ice, mint-julep style. Pleasantly tart, this cool refresher is sweetly balanced with ginger-lime and mint syrups. Bonus points for presentation.
The take-home lesson?
Soft cocktails can be every bit as delicious/sophisticated/complex as their boozy cousins.
And if you really want to take things home…
Eleven Madison Park’s soft-mixologist extraordinaire, Sam Lipp, was kind enough to share his recipes for each of these original creations:
1.5 oz ginger-lime syrup (a simple syrup made with 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, with lime zest and ginger added and allowed to macerate 2-3 days before straining)
1.5 oz water
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice (strained)
0.5 oz mint syrup
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously with ice. Strain into a julep cup full of crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a lemon twist.
La Bohème Noir
4 oz black tea (We brew China Keemun Hao Ya "A" from T Salon. We suggest not placing the brewed tea in the fridge to cool as it can cloud. Instead, allow to stand unrefrigerated overnight.)
1.5 oz lavender-infused honey (a simple syrup made with 2 parts honey to 1 part water, steeped with lavender for 1/2 an hour)
0.5 oz elderflower cordial (non-alcoholic, of course!)
Same instructions as above. You may garnish with fresh fruit of your choice or a sprig of lavender.
*3 oz chicha (recipe below)
0.5 oz fresh lime juice (strained)
0.5 oz agave nectar
Combine first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously with ice. Strain into a highball glass with no ice. Top with soda water according to taste (we used about 3.0 oz) and garnish with fresh berries and summer fruit.
*Chicha (a special thanks to Sous Chef, Erik Ramirez, for sharing this recipe!)
1 qt each raspberries, strawberries, blueberries
1.5 kg peaches
3 kg dried purple corn
3 cinnamon sticks
2 gallons water
A note to begin: all fruit must be extremely ripe, almost to the point it is overripe, but not quite. Muddle all the berries and peaches in a large sauce pan, being sure to fully break each piece. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer on the stove. Keep the mixture at a simmer for 2 hours or until it reduces in quantity by half. Remove from heat and allow to chill. Strain through a chinois and you are ready to go. Keep the mixture refrigerated and do not pre-season with agave and lime. (Both ingredients hasten the fruit's deterioration.)
What are some of your favorite “soft” cocktails?
Related: Summer Cocktails: The Full Roundup
(Images: Nora Maynard)