By Brian Hurley
While creating the summer drink menu for the Ruddy Duck Seafood and Alehouse this year, I was mindful to create some light and delicate cocktails for those who may not share my preference towards good whiskey.
What these two summery drinks — my take on a pina colada and the more hearty old school gin-boosted Elder Statesman — have in common is their delicious and fresh taste that goes down smooth.
The key to the Skinny Colada is the pineapple-infused vodka you will make.
For the vodka, select a perfectly ripe pineapple; remove the rind; cut into serviceable chunks (1 to 1 1/2”); deposit into a large canning/mason jar; add vodka to fill, and seal. Shake up the jar every day to help even flavor and to move fruit sediment and store the jar in a cool, dry place. Typically, two weeks is good enough for the fruit to impart a lasting impression on the vodka. If the flavor isn’t strong enough, strain the fresh pine (sieve, then strain thru cheesecloth or even a coffee filter to get the pulp out as fruit can go bad, even soaked in alcohol), and add a few cups of dried pineapple which will add sweetness and give a more potent flavor. Downside: it takes another week. Upside: it tastes amazing.
Both of these recipes are easy to prepare and good, light flavors for the warmer months ahead. Each of them pair well with food, though the Skinny is best with citrus fare and seafood, while the Statesman is bolder and can handle most everything.
Pineapple-infused vodka and coconut water. Bare bones pina colada with no added sugar but the residual sugars from the fruit. Light, delicate, easily drinkable, pairs well with food.
This drink is low-sugar, gluten-free*, borderline dietary madness, but tastes so good that you will never miss the extra sugaryness. It can be made to please your most dietary-restricted friends, provided you plan ahead.
For the coconut water, fresh is preferred, but use anything without added sugars or preservatives and this drink remains a diet or ‘lite’ beverage.
• Glass. • Ice.
• 1 1/2 oz of pineapple-infused vodka goodness. • 1 oz of coconut water.
• Chunk of fresh pineapple for garnish.
• Adjust recipe amounts to satisfaction.
• Repeat as necessary.
* if made with Tito’s vodka.
Gin, elderflower liquor, and mint. Old-school drink, in that it is almost entirely comprised of alcohol, yet smooth and subtle flavors make it an easy sipper.
• Tall Tom Collins glass.
• 1 1/2 oz of Bombay Saphire Gin.
• 3/4 oz of St. Germaine Elderflower Liquor. • 1/2 oz of simple syrup (or to taste).
• 3 dashes of orange bitters.
• 3 mint leaves.
Add ice to cocktail shaker, add ingredients, shake vigorously (this is mostly to bruise the mint and to spread the mint oil throughout). Fill tall Tom Collins glass with ice, strain the shaker contents over said ice.
Add mint leaf for garnish. Enjoy.
This summery cocktail is also delicious with a couple ounces of tonic water, for lighter palates.
The writer is bar manager and head bartender for the Ruddy Duck Seafood and Alehouse in Piney Point, Md.