As we ease on down that road toward summer, you might start dipping your toe back into outdoor living. It starts with two minutes of staring into the sunshine before you huddle back under the blanket, but before you know it, you’ll be reading your newspaper al fresco with a cocktail in hand.
That moment requires planning, so it’s time to talk about warm-weather cocktails. Sure, you could go generic with your old standby, but even small moments deserve to be celebrated with something a little extraordinary.
You might want to try a Ginnie Meyer. This drink is a refreshing blend of gin, freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice, and ginger beer. It’s a slow wave goodbye to citrus season as the sun breaks through the clouds.
Meyer lemons are sweeter than everyday lemons, with a flavor that might remind you of a slightly tart orange. They are also usually a brighter, more vibrant shade of yellow that looks beautiful when sliced for garnish. You should be able to find them at most grocery stores, but you can substitute equal parts lemon and orange juice, if you can’t.
Like all citrus, Meyer lemons can be squeezed at the peak of their season and their juice frozen for later. Portion 1/2 cup of juice into small zip-top bags to have enough for four cocktails, and sip all year long.
You may have noticed old favorites like the Dark & Stormy and Moscow Mule popping up on happy hour menus. Ginger beer, which is stronger in flavor than the familiar ginger ale, is having a moment right now. This recipe capitalizes on the availability of high-quality and, if you’re lucky, local versions of this lightly carbonated, slightly spicy mixer.
Speaking of ginger, if you’ve never tried candied ginger, this is a good excuse to grab some at the store to use as a garnish. CIA beverage instructor John Fischer created this cocktail and says, “Candied ginger is so tasty and so much fun because of its heat. My friends and I always try to steal the garnish from each other’s glasses.”
The candying process adds plenty of sweetness to offset the spicy qualities of this flavorful root. If you have leftover, chop it up and add to spice cookies or sprinkle on top of a baked pound cake.
The recipe calls for simple syrup. In a small saucepan, combine equal parts water and sugar, and bring to a boil until the sugar is fully dissolved. One cup of water and one cup of sugar is a convenient quantity to keep on hand. The syrup can be flavored by steeping ingredients like herbs and vanilla beans, or by blending with fresh fruit juice or purée (like raspberries) — because soon enough, you’re going to need a summer cocktail.
Start to finish: 5 minutes
Servings: 1 serving
1 ounce freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces gin
2 to 4 ounces ginger beer
1 piece of candied ginger
1 mint sprig, for garnish (optional)
Pour the lemon juice, simple syrup, and gin into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake the cocktail like you mean it and strain over fresh ice in a Collins (tall) glass. Top with the ginger beer and garnish with a piece of candied ginger stuck on a toothpick. Top with mint, if desired.
Chef’s Note: If you don’t have bar measuring tools, you can use a tablespoon measure — 1 ounce is equal to 2 tablespoons.