Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Drinks of Summer: Martinis and Caipirinhas

Years ago I was working on a difficult job. The days were long. The heat oppressive. Many of my coworkers were given to fits of irrationality and unpleasantness. But finally, as with all things, the job was ending. To celebrate our release from pain, a final party was arranged before we returned to our lives and normalcy.

I remember being led downstairs to a grotto and in the dimness there was an apparition I've never forgotten.

A lone waiter, moving through the crowd--a Moses dividing the Red Sea--his elbow cocked, a tray balanced on one hand and on that tray were half a dozen shimmering glasses of cold, liquid pinkness. Somehow a light followed those glasses through the darkness as though a stagehand with a follow-spot had found the movie star we all dream about.

When I am hot, tired, and weary, the vision of those cosmopolitans held high above the crowd comes back to me and I am revived.

An ice-cold cosmopolitan brings a smile to my face, but from my travels I can offer up 3 more companions to lower the temperature on a hot summer night.

Beach Martini

On a trip to Houston and a stay at the Hotel Icon, Roberto Sanchez, one of the barmen in the Voice Lounge, improvised a cocktail that remains a favorite for its lightness and refreshing flavors.

Yield 1 serving

Time 5 minutes


1 1/2 ounces Finlandia vodka
3/4 ounce Patron Citron
1/2 ounce DeKuyper Watermelon Pucker
Splash of freshly squeezed orange juice


Combine the ingredients with crushed ice. Shake. Strain and pour into a martini glass.

Kiwi-Pomegranate Caipirinha

The national drink of Brazil, the caipirinha, has 4 ingredients: cachaça, sugar, limes, and ice. Simple, delicious, and strong. Cachaça is harsher than rum but more flavorful than vodka.

Off and on for three years our older son, Franklin, lived in Brazil. We visited him in wonderfully complex Rio where he introduced us to the pleasures of sitting on the Leblon beach, enjoying the incredible view and feasting on "appetizers" sold by vendors who walk up and down the beach.

Because Brazil has such a bounty of tropical fruits, it was only a matter of time before the caipirinha enjoyed the addition of other flavors. Franklin had learned to make variations. Going to a nearby farmers' market, we picked out different fruit to add to the basic ingredients.

Back at his apartment we spent the afternoon working our way through many combinations. What we liked best was adding kiwi fruit and pomegranate seeds, then we experimented with the proportions.

When it was time to leave Rio, we packed our suitcase with as many bottles of cachaça as we could legally bring home.

Yield 1 serving

Time 5 minutes


2 ounces cachaça
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1/2 lime, cut into 8 pieces, mashed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 kiwi, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
Ice, cubed or crushed

Pour the cachaça in a 12 ounce glass, add the sugar and stir well. Add the lime, kiwi, and pomegranate seeds. Fill the glass with ice and stir well.

Serve with a spoon so you can eat the kiwi and pomegranate seeds while you sip your caipirinha.

A True Pomegranate Martini

On a recent trip to Sonoma, visiting the amazing Sonoma Market, we picked up a bottle of Sonoma Syrup Co's Pomegranate Grenadine Simple Syrup. If you can find a bottle, which takes some doing, you'll read the label and find that this is one of the few (maybe the only) pomegranate syrups that is made exclusively with pomegranate juice and sugar, and, oh yeah, some water. Really delicious.

If you're lucky enough to find a source for Tanqueray Vodka--yes, Vodka--buy several bottles. Where we live only the upscale market, Gelson's, carries it and it is something special.

Yield 1 serving

Time 1 minute


5 ounces vodka, preferably Tanqueray
1/2 ounce Pomegranate Grenadine, preferably made by Sonoma Syrup Company


Keep the vodka in the freezer. Combine the vodka and grenadine in a martini glass and stir well.

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