I’m talking to you, summertime.
Have you noticed that everywhere you look, it’s fall? I can’t stop talking about it. The colors are changing. Back-to-school sales are in full swing. At my house, the shmooshy down comforter has replaced the lighter quilt, and the cozy, fleecy robe is now hanging where the light cotton one has camped out for the last 4 months. We munched on the first casserole of the season this week, and John went bird hunting yesterday. Autumn is just about here, and it’s awesome. I love the change of seasons!
But how fabulous is summer? New freckles, picnics, lake days, sundresses, flip-flops, BBQs, life al fresco… and tasty, refreshing cocktails.
On his way home from the hunt yesterday, John let me know that he was bringing home a grouse. I suggested happy hour. I’d make a special drink and John would make some kind of bird appetizer. Fun! I started searching for a fun new drink to try. I bypassed all of the mouth-watering bourbon cocktails or other fall-ish drinks and kept landing on the summertime variety. The one that beckoned me most was all SUMMER: the Cucumber Raspberry Vodka Sparkler from none other than Joy the Baker.
I’ve made my blog crush on Joy the Baker clear over the last few months. Most recently, her cookbook prompted me to make Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies, John’s new favorite. This drink recipe had what I was looking for: vodka, fruit, and something unexpected.
Full disclosure: I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, partly by accident and partly on purpose. The sparkling water, for example, did not join the party. (That was not intentional. I think I got too excited about using a cocktail shaker and forgot.) Instead of Cointreau, I used Gran Marnier. It was what we had in the bar, and really, how bad could it be?
The most involved part of this cocktail is really the cucumber. You want the juice. Have you ever had water with cucumber? SO refreshing! I peeled and chopped and pureed the cucumber, then smooshed it through a fine sieve and was left with about a cup of cucumber water. This made the drink.
Here comes the SHAKER LOVE. This is where the magic happens! And my magic, I mean vodka.
First, some ice cubes, raspberries, mint leaves, sugar, and lime juice got shaken together. This process basically muddles it all into a fruity-minty syrup base. That Joy’s a smart cookie.
Then, I added the vodka, a little Gran Marnier, and the cucumber water. This is where I left out the sparkling water. I was distracted by all of the YUM!
Another vigorous shake to blend it all together, and POOF! Summertime in a glass.
GORGEOUS. Do you love the cucumber spear? Kind of like a pickle in a Bloody Mary. John and I took tentative sips, and the first reaction was “Ahhhhhh.” Cucumbers just bring a refreshing coolness to anything, and an adult beverage is no exception. Joy indicated that it is not necessarily a sweet cocktail, and I agreed. I added a smidge of agave nectar and a dollop of raspberry puree to mine. So yummy- I had two.
Though it wasn’t a difficult thing to make, I’d classify this cocktail as ‘special occasion‘ as opposed to ‘everyday.’ Please note the kitchen carnage.
Happy hour was off to a scrumptious start… but we still needed nibbles!
John came up with a great little recipe to use the breast meat from the grouse he shot today. He called them… ahem… GROUSE BALLS. (Cue 13 year-old boy humor.) You’re welcome for not taking photos during the cleaning of the bird portion of the day.
John had a process for the Grouse Balls- an assembly line, if you will. It went like this: grouse, seasoned flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs. Once the chunks were coated, into hot oil they went to brown.
When our snacks were golden brown, we poked them with cocktail toothpicks on a plate with a couple of dipping sauces and headed outside. The late afternoon sun was waning, but it was still toasty on the deck.
Sipping cocktails in the sunshine, it may as well have been June 1. Cholula begged for a taste of grouse, and then romped around the backyard as we soaked in what will likely be one of our last summery al fresco days. It was easy to forget that the hillsides were more red than green already. We may have had bare feet at the moment, but as soon as the sun dropped below the horizon, we’d need a jacket.
What a summer it has been. And what adventures fall has in store for us! I was pondering all that is ahead- a few trips, our wedding, a honeymoon, the holidays- when I bit into my last Grouse Ball. Something hard hit my teeth. I had gotten the lucky buckshot bite.
There you have it. We may have been clinging happily to the last few moments of summertime, but it looked like my fall would also be filled with good fortune.
And if I ever need a taste of summer, I can always make a tasty cocktail.