Since the day I turned 21 years old, I have been on the quest for “my signature cocktail.” The one drink that when I slid up to the bar and ordered it, everyone would know the type of person I was and what my liquid essence would be if it was poured over ice and captured in a glass.
By the way, this blue drink here, made by Frank the bartender at Delaware Cafe is definitely not my signature drink. In fact, it might be the antithesis of my signature drink. It is too big, has way too many different kinds of booze in it, I would have to teach every bartender in town to make it, it is accessorized all wrong, it has some whacked out gangster name that a nice white girl like me should not be yelling across a packed bar like "Giddy-up Motherf*&ker" or "Whose your Baby's Daddy?" Also, it is also WAY, WAY, TOO BLUE.
Similar to my signature drink quest, I think most people, when the warm weather hits, tend to consciously pick one drink or cocktail and make it their summer drink of choice.
Summer cocktails or drinks do have some hallmarks that make them different than drinks consumed any other time of year. They must be light, thirst-quenching, refreshing, with lower alcohol content so you can sip on them through the long, lazy summer days by the pool and the BBQ and sometimes they even need to be portable.
At least those were the guidelines laid out for me when I consulted Ryan Sciara, Managing Partner and resident Wine Stud at Cellar Rat Wine Merchants in the Crossroads downtown.
Sciara was the Sommelier for 40 Sardines for almost 5 years, and a wine rep before that, and the best bartender they ever had at Teller's before that according to my Lawrence friends. Then he decided to open Cellar Rat along with partner John J. Opelka about two years ago. Safe to say Sciara knows a thing or two about wine, which is where we start our conversation on summer drink trends for 2008.
These recommendations are based on what is flying off the Cellar Rat shelves, where they see the trend headed and what they personally are sipping on this season.
As Sciara put it to me, “we have to like it, to be able to sell it.”
• Rosé wines – Literally, sitting half way between a white wine and a red, is the dry rosé wine. With a nose full of strawberries and summer fruit, and a lovely crisp flavor, rosé has been called the easiest wine to pair with summer food. Last summer, rosé wines exploded on the scene with good ones from California, Italy and France. The trend continues for the most versatile and food friendly wine on the block.
• German Rieslings – Lower in alcohol content, with a sweet demeanor. The amazing thing about the German Rieslings is the delicate balance the Germans have achieved with this wine. This is not the sugar bomb sweet wine you might expect hearing the word Riesling. This is an easy sipping, exhilarating refreshing white wine.
• Argentina Torrontes – This interesting grape from Argentina has been traced back to Spanish origins, and is known for it’s distinctive fresh, aromatic scent, much like a Muscat or Viognier. Bright, floral and fruity, this is a medium bodied wine that is rarely oaked and has a high acidity to it. A sudden favorite this summer among those in finer wine circles.
• Boxed Wines – Boxed wine has really taken a bad rap over the years. The good news is wine companies took note and now they making good wine portable. This can be important for anyone who wants to be outside participating in activities that do not allow glass. Try the Three Thieves line of carton wines, a juice box for grown-ups.
• Sake - This Japanese rice beverage has undergone a complete make-over. Ice-cold sakes with cloudy to clear consistencies offer complex new flavors that bring to mind the tropical flavors like papaya and banana.
• Wheach Peach Beer from O’Fallon, MO – An unfiltered beer from our own state of Missouri. This beer has a whisper of peach flavor in the back of the palate. The fruit is present in this beer but by no means takes center stage.
• Smokestack Series from Boulevard Brewing Company – These new large format bottles from our local brewhouse Boulevard is sweeping the city this summer. With two leaning more on the hops side of the house and the other two on the malt side, no matter how you taste it, these are the beers of the summer of 2008.
• Gourmet Gins – Brands like Henderick’s and lime-infused gins are creating quite a stir on this season’s cocktail front. When mixed with interesting fruits and vegetables like cucumber, lime and melons gin drinks move out of the bathtub and into the glass. I have also enjoyed many gin drinks this summer that had a beaten egg-white in the mix, which gives any drink a light, almost angelic mouth feel. May To taste this trend I recommend, the Silver Elder Fizz at Justus Drugstore.
• Flavored Vodkas – Flavored vodka’s have been around for several years, but this summer it is about coming up with more creative ways to take advantage of the extra flavor punch delivered in this virtually tasteless liquid. I have sipped a lovely cherry vodka with lavender lemonade at Delaware Cafe (Frank redeemed himself with this drink) that tasted like the best grown-up drink at Sonic.
Have I found my signature cocktail? Nope, I’m still looking. But this list has given me cause for pause and consideration. Let’s raise our collective glasses and toast – “To finding your perfect signature drink this summer.”
Story by Jenny Vergara. A full time foodie and a woman on quest to develop her palate and herself through cooking, eating, drinking, traveling and writing. She is the Table Hopping columnist for Tastebud Magazine. Email her at [email protected] or check out her blog at http://www.makingafoodie.com.