A Cocktail to Beat the Heat

My love for cocktails was born before I even tasted one. It was during the summer of 1996, and I had just finished up a shift at the Structure store at Faneuil Hall. Outside the building, the sun was still blazing, and the wall of heat that greeted me instantly melted whatever cool good spirits I had built up during the air-conditioned day. By the time I made it up all the steps to the Government Center Green line, I was in no mood.

I caught the beginning of the afternoon rush hour, squeezing into a car and finding a seat behind a talkative lady. Normally I avoid people who seem like they want to talk (and they invariably seek me out like kids or panhandlers). This day I was too hot and tired to be bothered moving, so I let her drone on in the seat in front of me. Far from being annoying, however, her voice was soothing. She sat there, in her sneakers and dress suit, expounding upon how hot it was, and then said she would like nothing more than to have an ice-cold vodka gimlet at Sonsie’s. The vision was simple and arresting – a cool cocktail in a cool bar, nothing more or less than that. And the idea that she could sit there on her own empowered me. It sounded so appealing, such a wonderful thing to do on a hot day.

The crowded commuters faded away, the smells and discomfort departed, and the sweaty stuffiness lifted – all because of that proffered vision. It was the promise of relief and sanctuary in a single glass – the power of suggestion and imagination. It would be a few weeks before I was even old enough to drink, but the enjoyment of a smart cocktail was planted then.

These days, I like a cocktail to be an event, such as the one depicted here. It’s a simple one, culled from FaceBook I think, and modified slightly to my own whims. It came after this light salad of raspberries, spring greens, walnuts, and goat cheese. After a day of lounging by the pool, wilted by the oppressive heat, I just wanted something super-cold, and slightly sweet. (It’s one of the only times when I don’t opt for super-dry.)

The recipe is exceptionally easy, being equal parts limoncello and citrus vodka and a couple of frozen raspberries.

That’s it.

Wimps and wanna-bes could add sparkling lemonade to cut it, but I don’t have time for such nonsense.

Besides, as served in the cordial glass seen here, it’s designed to be sipped, not gulped – either before or after a summer meal.

The trick to making it so good is in the chill: everything except the lemon verbena garnish was set in the freezer for a few hours beforehand, glass included.

The neat thing is the frozen raspberries, that act both as ice cubes and fruit. (By frozen, I mean fresh ones that have been placed in the freezer for an hour or two – not the pre-packaged nonsense that would never have retained such perfect form.)

Never underestimate the importance of a properly chilled drink. A good bartender isn’t shaking around that ice for exercise or entertainment. Too often, home-made cocktails suffer from lax preparation in this department, and the difference is profound, especially on a week like this. Chill out.

Oh, and don’t forget the garnish.

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