Summer Drinks (Unlocked)
now with a Mother's Day special
Originally published for paying subscribers June 9, 2021. Unlocked now with the addition of a Mother’s Day special drink courtesy of “Half-Baked Harvest: Super Simple.”
During the pandemic, it’s been very important to find special little things you can do to break up the days. For my husband and I, one of those things has been making fun iced drinks. The days got warm (and then got very, very cold again, but that’s besides the point), and we started making iced honey green tea with coconut milk.
Every late afternoon when we’re done with work, we boil the water, steep the tea with a generous amount of honey, fill glasses to the brim with ice, add coconut milk, and sip it on the porch as we watch the people and the pollen float by.
And, more importantly, it breaks up the day. Rituals of relaxation are important anyway. When you’re working from home, it’s essential to have something to help distinguish the work day from the end of the day.
Before the pandemic, we’d break up our days by going to shows, movies, symphonies. We love music, and we’d scrape together our pennies that we pinched pretty hard throughout college to buy tickets to the Colorado Symphony.
That’s probably been the thing we’ve missed most during this whole thing — hearing that unmistakable sound of professional musicians tuning their instruments, the voices of the audience getting louder to finish up their sentences before the music starts, the hush that falls over the room as the instruments go silent. The anticipation.
We’ve missed going to pubs, too. In college, our favorite was the chain of Old Chicagos that are scattered across our area of Denver. Every night at 10 p.m. the late-night specials start — $3 beers and $2 appetizers. Our friends would all gather at one of our apartments and talk and play games or music until 10 rolled around, then we’d jump in our friend’s very large and unreliable van and eat like kings.
So you can imagine our excitement when we saw an advertisement from the Colorado Symphony saying that they would be combining these two things we’d been missing the most into one virtual event. A live-streamed cocktail class combined with a concert from the Colorado Symphony.
We bought tickets right away. We picked up the cocktail kit at Mythology, a distillery in Downtown Denver known for its spirits that use botanicals sourced from the Denver Botanical Gardens, made simple syrup and bought fresh mint leaves. We got dressed up. We even made the bruschetta hors d’oeuvre from last week’s newsletter to make everything feel extra fancy.
The class was hosted by the owner of Mythology along with one of their mixologists, both of whom were standing next to the distillery’s massive and impressive tanks holding gallons and gallons of bourbon.
The concert was hosted by the conductor of the Colorado Symphony, who is just as cool as his name — Christopher Dragon. And a delightful Colorado Symphony oboist who was lovingly referred to as “Oboe Nick” during the live-stream along with a horn player named Patrick rounded out the group.
All of the hosts, both musicians and mixologists, could see each other and interact as the people from Mythology taught both the audience and the musical hosts how to make two cocktails over Zoom.
And it was hilarious.
The informal yet professional tone of the event was perfect and the big personalities of the hosts had us in stitches on our couch where we’d laid out a fast-melting ice tray on a platter along with a cup filled with simple syrup, two glasses, and our garnishes.
They streamed never-before-seen performances by the Colorado Symphony that were recorded last year as the pandemic was beginning. These featured collaborations with poets and dancers and the pièce de résistance — a recording of Vivaldi’s “Spring” at Red Rocks.
The brilliance of the piece and the loveliness of the opportunity to hear it as the pear blossoms bloom outside our apartment window was matched only by the haunting view of the world-famous Red Rocks amphitheater behind the musicians with its seats almost completely empty.
It felt so much more intimate than almost any other performance I’ve been to in my life. And it was over a computer screen.
It felt like we were getting to know these musicians that we have admired from afar for so many years. There was a Q and A segment of the event, and my husband, who is a composer and musician himself, sent in a question about collaboration with new composers and other musicians during the pandemic.
We got to hear very real answers from these people who have made it in the industry. They spoke about getting part time jobs to get by and writing to composers who were friends from college to commission solo pieces so that they could work on their craft and not fade away from boredom during this time when it’s been hard to pursue what we love.
It was a wonderful night. Over the course of those two hours, I heard amazing music, learned that a mint julep is my new favorite drink, and that even the best of the best have struggled to pursue their art over the past year.
But to get back to that mint julep thing — could there be a more perfect time to talk about that classically Southern drink than the week after the Kentucky Derby? Well…maybe the week before the Kentucky Derby…
Iced Honey-Green Tea
Preparation time: 10 minutes
You will need:
Two bags green tea (or two scoops of loose leaf tea and a tea pot or tea ball). I prefer a green and white tea blend for a lighter, smoother taste.
Two tablespoons honey
1/4 cup coconut milk
Two tall glasses
What to do:
Steep your tea with the honey for at least 5 minutes. You can also steep the tea until it is cool if you have the time, as you will be putting it over ice. Fill two tall glasses with ice and pour the steeped tea over the ice. Top with the coconut milk split between the two glasses. Give it a little stir, and enjoy.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
You will need:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Fresh mint leaves
4 ounces bourbon (Mythology makes an excellent one — Best Friend Bourbon)
Ice cubes (or crushed ice for a truly traditional drink)
What to do:
Make the simple syrup by adding the sugar and the water to a pan and bringing it to a boil, whisking it constantly. It should thicken and look like, well, syrup. Put 4 or 5 mint leaves into the bottom of your glass. The wonderful mixologist at Mythology taught me that you always need to muddle the herbs in drinks to really get the most out of them.
So I recommend pouring the simple syrup over the mint leaves in your drink, then use the spoon you will use to stir the drink (or if you have all the tools, use your muddler!) to press the mint leaves, which releases the minty flavor. Add the bourbon and the crushed or cubed ice and stir. Garnish with a few more mint leaves, and enjoy this incredibly refreshing drink!
I hope you enjoy these refreshing, summery drinks. If you want the full experience, drink them on a porch with spring flowers on either side of it and Vivaldi on in the background.
Bonus hint: these would make a fun and celebratory Mother’s Day drink!
Thanks for reading! See you next month with another story-recipe. In the meantime, check out Mythology Distillery (they deliver all over the country) and the Crescendo Society at Colorado Symphony for some lovely virtual events.
In honor of Mother’s Day this year, I will be making a cocktail that seems tailor-made to my personal mother’s personal tastes — a Pomegranate-Thyme Vodka Spritz. This is a drink brimming with ginger. Fresh ginger, ginger beer, and pomegranate, three of my mom’s favorite things, give this drink a zing!
This recipe comes from the great Tieghan Gerard in her book, “Half-Baked Harvest: Super Simple.” I highly recommend this book. It’s filled with delightful recipes that will break neither your bank nor your back, but the dishes come out tasting as if they’ve done both. The photography is gorgeous, and Tieghan’s writing style makes the book a perfect addition for people like me who enjoy reading through cookbooks for fun.
I hope you enjoy this recipe with or in memory of your mom today, and that it brings a smile to your face that’s as bright as the drink’s color.
Pomegranate-Thyme Vodka Spritz
from “Half-Baked Harvest: Super Simple” by Tieghan Gerard (page 73)
Makes 4 cocktails
You will need:
1/4 cup honey
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus more for serving
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
8 ounces vodka
4 ounces elderflower liqueur, such as St-Germain
1 1/3 cups pomegranate juice
Juice of 2 limes
3 to 4 (12-ounce) ginger beers
What to do:
In a medium saucepan, combine the honey, thyme, ginger, and 1/2 cup water over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the ginger is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature. Remove and discard the thyme and ginger.
In a large pitcher, combine the syrup, vodka, elderflower liqueur, pomegranate juice, and lime juice. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve, at least 1 hour.
Add the ginger beer to your taste just before serving and stir to combine.
Add ice to four glasses and pour the spritz over the top. Garnish each drink with fresh thyme.
I’d love to know your go-to cocktail! Comment here:
That’s it for this week. Thanks, as always, for reading. Happy Mother’s Day!
If you liked this post, consider sending “Food & Fodder” to a friend who you think might enjoy it! Paying subscribers can check back in next week for pasta salads and stories about growing up on an island shaped like a whale.
Have you guys heard about Bookshop?
If you love supporting smaller, brick-and-mortar bookstores but love shopping from the comfort of your home (or, like me, you live in a teeny tiny town with a lovely but sometimes limited book selection) you’ve got to check them out. 10% of their sales go to local book stores, and 10% goes to their affiliates (like me!) every time you buy a book. They’ve got all the selection of a big online bookstore, and they’ve donated $20 million and counting to bookstores!
I now have a little “storefront” on their site, so if you’re wanting to see or buy some of my favorite books, head on over to my Bookshop site! Right now, my Bookshop lists include my Cookbook Collection, My Work, My Top 10 (always changing), and My New Foray into Scary Books.
You can find the cookbook I mentioned above, “Half-Baked Harvest: Super Simple,” there!