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Nightlife & Music

Ask A Seattle Expert: Best Summertime Vodka Cocktails

July 31, 2014 4:00 AM

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Summertime in Seattle is all about grabbing some sun, on the water or on the deck, with a picnic or at the barbecue grill. To go with great company and delicious food, here are three original cocktail recipes from Audrey Saunders, owner of the Pegu Club in New York City. Audrey splits her time between New York and Seattle—and with her husband, another noted cocktail expert, Robert “Drinkboy” Hess.
Audrey Saunders
Pegu Club
77 W. Houston St.
New York, NY 10012
(212) 473-7348
www.peguclub.com

Audrey Saunders is a globally recognized leader of modern mixology. Her New York cocktail lounge, Pegu Club, is renowned as the bar that sparked the craft-cocktail movement. Her husband, Robert Hess, is one of the founders of The Museum of the American Cocktail and the author of an introductory guide to cocktails, “The Essential Bartender’s Guide,” as well as several other “spirited” achievements. In asking this dynamic drink duo for three vodka cocktail recipes, “Focusing on just vodka cocktails isn’t really something we can do. Any serious mixologist would cringe at that,” stated Robert.What they graciously provided, however, is one vodka recipe, plus recipes for two other cocktails using other spirits. Any of these original cocktail creations from Audrey are very approachable drinks. So even if you are someone who only drinks vodka, you will likely enjoy any of these delightful summer thirst quenchers. They translate deliciously from New York to our corner of the West Coast.

Grapefruit Vodka Cooler (Original creation by Audrey Saunders)
Makes 1 cocktail

When Audrey develops a new cocktail recipe, she says there are typically 40-50 different trials using different brands of spirits. While you can substitute your favorite brand, you may want to search out these specific liquors in order to enjoy the cocktail as originally conceived by a master mixologist.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz grapefruit syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 oz honey syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1 dash Peychauds Bitters
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 2 oz Belvedere Grapefruit Vodka
  • 1 grapefruit twist (strip of peel, including the white pith)

Directions:

Measure lemon juice, grapefruit syrup, honey syrup and bitters into a cocktail shaker. Add 1 sprig fresh mint. Using a muddling tool, press and twist the mint 8-10 times in the bottom of the mixing glass to extract the mint oil.

Add vodka and ice to the shaker, cover and shake well. Strain into a chilled stemmed cocktail or rocks glass. Garnish with 1 sprig of mint and a grapefruit twist.

Lemon-Thyme Daiquiri (Original Creation by Audrey Saunders)
Makes 1 cocktail

If you have lemon-thyme growing in your yard, here’s the perfect cocktail to capture its essence in a glass.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 oz lime syrup (recipe follows)
  • 9 sprigs lemon thyme
  • 2 1/2 oz Flor de Cana White Rum (4 year extra dry)

Directions:

Measure lime juice, simple syrup and lime syrup into a cocktail shaker. Add 8 sprigs of lemon thyme. Using a muddling tool, press and twist the thyme 8-10 times in the bottom of the mixing glass to extract the lemon-thyme oil.

Add rum and ice to the shaker, cover and shake well. Strain into a chilled stemmed cocktail or rocks glass. Garnish with 1 sprig of lemon-thyme.

Cucumber-Mint Creole (Original creation by Audrey Saunders)
Makes 1 cocktail

It is said that “gin will make you sin.” This cool cocktail will ensure that all is forgiven.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • 4 cucumber slices (3 for muddling, 1 for garnish)
  • 2 mint sprigs (1 for muddling, 1 for garnish)
  • 1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin
  • 1/2 oz Linie Aquavit
  • 1/2 oz Dry Sack Sherry

Directions:

Measure lemon juice and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker. Add 3 cucumber slices and 1 sprig of mint. Using a muddling tool, press and twist the cucumber and mint 8-10 times in the bottom of the mixing glass.

Add gin, aquavit, sherry and ice to the shaker, cover and shake well. Strain into a chilled stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with 1 cucumber slice and 1 sprig of mint.

Related: Best Frozen Drinks In Seattle

Simple Syrup Recipe
Makes 6 ounces syrup, enough for 12-24 cocktails

For cocktail use, simple syrup is not heated to dissolve the sugar. Heating the mixture concentrates the syrup and adds heaviness to a cocktail, which is not usually desirable, especially summertime drinks. Superfine sugar is finely ground and dissolves more readily than granulated sugar, but either type will work.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c granulated or superfine sugar
  • 1/2 c cold water
  • 1 tbsp plain vodka (optional)

Directions:

Stir together sugar and water. After several minutes, stir again until liquid is no longer cloudy. Repeat standing and stirring until liquid is completely clear; about 5-10 minutes. Transfer syrup to a bottle with a cap and store in a refrigerator.

Audrey’s tip: If you don’t plan to use up the syrup within a couple of weeks, add a tablespoon of vodka to inhibit bacterial growth.

Citrus Syrup Recipe (for grapefruit, lime or other citrus fruit)
Makes 6 ounces syrup, enough for 12-24 cocktails

Audrey doesn’t like to waste anything. Prior to juicing lemons, limes, or other citrus, she utilizes the zest—the outer colored portion of the peel—to extract more delicious citrus flavors. Simply trim off the zest, add it to simple syrup and let it infuse overnight. Without any additional purchase on your part, citrus syrup provides a simple, homemade ingredient that elevates the flavor of your cocktails. It’s a very simple way to jazz up the simplest of recipes. It also works wonders in non-alcoholic drinks.

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 oz simple syrup
  • 1 lime

Directions:

Place simple syrup in a container with a cover. Using a zesting tool or microplane, peel the green lime zest directly into the container. Avoid trimming the white pith, which contributes bitter flavors. Cover the container and shake hard for 10 seconds, and then refrigerate for 24 hours.

Strain syrup (pressing down on zest to extract lime flavor) into a bottle with a cap and store in a refrigerator. Discard the zest.

For larger citrus fruits such as orange, blood orange, grapefruit or pomelo, zest only half of the peel, or use a double recipe (12 to 16 ounces) of simple syrup if zesting the entire fruit.

Honey Syrup Recipe
Makes 8 ounces syrup, enough for 16-32 cocktails

Honey syrup is much easier to incorporate into cocktails than plain honey. Darker honey is usually more full flavored than lighter honeys, which you may or may not prefer.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1/2 c cold water

Directions:

Stir together honey and water until the water is fully incorporated and makes the honey thin and runny. Transfer syrup to a bottle with a cap and store in refrigerator.

Related: Best Bars For Rum Selections In Seattle 

Carole Cancler is a freelance writer covering all things Seattle. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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