Cocktail buzz: Flavored mojitos and martinis are the rage

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You probably don't have a swim-up bar in your back yard like those fancy Caribbean resorts. Maybe the only thing spa-like at your house is July's sauna-like humidity and heat. And does finding some potato chips under the bed count as room service?

OK, so your house doesn't much resemble a hip hot-spot in New York, Miami or the Bahamas. But with a little help from some professors of mixology at happening nightclubs, barefoot resorts and Zenned-out spas from around the country, your next bash can pick up some of this summer's trendiest cocktail flavors.

First, forget traditional drinks such as scotch on the rocks, romantic classics such as the Americana and stuffy drinks based on Dubonnet or Lillet. Even that bastion of the tropical British Empire, the gin and tonic, has fallen from favor, according to masters of the mix.

Instead, this summer's trendy drinks are going lighter and less alcoholic for afternoon gatherings. And in the evening, it's all about endless variations of mojitos, a Cuban drink using rum, cane sugar and mint, and martinis, which aren't your daddy's olive-or-twist anymore.

"The martini trend is around the world now -- everybody knows what it is," said Carl Beviere, food and beverage manager for Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort in the Caribbean. "The martini used to be a stuffy drink limited to rich people, your older clientele, where now younger people are drinking it. There are thousands of martini recipes, and there's a new recipe coming out every day."

Purists argue that a martini that is anything other than vodka or gin with maybe a touch of vermouth is not, in fact, a martini. But in the drinking world, a martini has come to embrace almost any drink that includes vodka and is served in the familiar conical glass. Fruit-flavored drinks and fruit-infused vodkas are particularly popular, in part because their sweetness tends to appeal to women, who bartenders note have begun to outnumber men at the clubs.

Appletinis, concoctions of vodka and DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker that first hit trendy bars about a decade ago, have fallen off a bit but are still going relatively strong, he said. But other popular sweet martinis include chocolate, espresso or caramel, creating a sippable (and potent) dessert-in-a-glass.

Many customers also seek out fruit flavors in other drinks, such as the cranberry and grapefruit juices in a Seabreeze, or mango or pineapple flavors in some of the new cocktails that mix fruit teas and vodka, said Mr. Beviere.

Rum drinks go well in hot weather, too, and mojitos (say mo-HEE-tos), once a specialty in the Cuban community, have gone mainstream at clubs across the country. Ever in search of something new -- and particularly new and colorful -- to impress customers, Stephane Hainaut, general manager of Barton G. Restaurant in Miami, created a pink, passionfruit-flavored mojito that "just flies off."

But almost anything colorful, from a mix of citrus Ketel One vodka and electric pink lemonade, to a "G-breeze" made with green Sour Apple Pucker, is trendy this summer, he said.

At least in Miami, though, "gin cocktails are nowhere to be seen," said Mr. Hainaut, adding that he might use three bottles of gin a week, compared to about 40 bottles of vodka.

For other cocktail experts, hot weather cries out for something less alcoholic than a cocktail, but lighter than many of the oaked chardonnays often sipped at summertime gatherings.

At one recent party in Charleston, S.C., guests were served some dessert-style champagne -- Nectar Imperial by Moet & Chandon -- over ice with a squeeze of lime, said Dennis Perry, sommelier for Charleston's Peninsula Grill. Another variation could include champagne over shaved ice with a squeeze of grapefruit or other fruit.

"I thought it was wonderfully refreshing, low in alcohol and perfect for the sunny side of the pool," Mr. Perry said.

This summer, the restaurant is experimenting with fruity, herbal cocktails such as a mixture of basil-scented strawberry juice and No. Ten by Tanqueray gin, which has fewer herbal components and a cleaner taste than traditional gins. And as in Miami, hot weather in Charleston calls for ice tea, steeped at Peninsula Grill with oranges, limes and lemons -- and mixed with a little Stolichnaya vodka, of course -- in a sugar-rimmed glass.

"You've got everything but the rocking chair there," said Mr. Perry.

FIVE C'S

This drink was inspired by a popular dessert at the Peninsula Grill in Charleston, S.C.

  • 1 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1 ounce white-chocolate liqueur
  • 1 ounce coconut rum
  • 1/2 ounce hazelnut liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce vanilla-flavored vodka

Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add all of the ingredients. Shake for approximately 15 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

PAINTED MERMAID

  • 1 1/2 ounces Absolut Vodka
  • 1 1/2 ounces Chambord
  • 1/2 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine

Shake well with ice in a mixing glass and strain into a martini glass rimmed with colored sugar.

-- Painted Lady tea house and restaurant in Norfolk, Va.

THE PEACOCK

This is adapted from the signature drink at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • 1 1/2 ounces Pama Liqueur or pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 ounce (dash) Triple Sec or other orange liqueur

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, shake vigorously. Strain into champagne glass.

SHANGHAI TEA

  • 2 ounces Hennessey XO
  • 1 ounces infused sweet vermouth (directions follow)
  • 1 ounce green tea
  • 1 ounce Pama Liqueur or pomegranate juice
  • Splash lime juice

Pour all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, shake vigorously for 7 seconds (for froth). Pour into a highball glass and garnish with a lime.

Infusion for sweet vermouth to be prepared prior to service: Bring to boil one bottle sweet vermouth (750ml) with 6 cardamoms, 6 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick. Let cool and strain.

-- Adapted from Waldorf-Astoria

1860 MANHATTAN

This classic recipe from 1860 is slightly different, and in our opinion much more exciting.

  • 2 ounces Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18 year
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Grand Marnier
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass. Add large, very cold ice cubes. Stir well with bar spoon for 40 to 45 revolutions. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

-- Waldorf-Astoria

CHOCOLATE LOVERS' CREAMSICLE MARTINI

  • 4 ounces Absolut Mandarin
  • 2 ounces chocolate vodka
  • 2 ounces White Cr?me de Cacao
  • Chocolate shavings, chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate rod for garnish

Pour liquid ingredients into mixing glass. Add ice and stir to chill. Strain into a 12-ounce martini glass.

Sink a chocolate-covered strawberry into bottom of glass, sprinkle chocolate shavings on top, and slip in a chocolate rod to stir.

-- Sandals Resorts

THE 5-STAR

  • 2 ounces rum
  • 2 ounces heavy cream
  • 3/4 ounces maple syrup
  • Chinese 5-spice (usually a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper, Sichuan pepper and star anise, available in spice section at grocery store)
Pouringredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain and pour into a chilled martini glass. Dust cocktail with Chinese five-spice.

-- Waldorf-Astoria

CHERRY CREAM MARTOONI (NONALCOHOLIC)

This cocktail is a refreshing drink perfect for tropical climates -- whether in South Beach, where it's a hit at trendy restaurant Barton G., or in Pittsburgh on a sultry day.

  • 2 ounces cherry syrup
  • Splash of cream
  • Soda

Combine syrup and cream in a shaker. Fill with soda and stir.

Pour into a large margarita glass. For a special touch, garnish with butterfly-shaped ice cubes (containers for the freezing of specially shaped ice cubes can be found at gourmet specialty stores and increasingly at larger home goods stores such as Bed, Bath and Beyond).

SPA-GERITA (NONALCOHOLIC)

  • 4 ounces limeade (or juice from 1 lime plus 1 teaspoon sugar)
  • 2 ounces orange juice
  • 1 salted lime wedge

Mix the limeade and the orange juice. Serve over ice, blended with ice or blended frozen. Garnish with a salted lime wedge.

-- Red Mountain Spa

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel's signature drinks include The Peacock and Shanghai Tea.
Click photo for larger image.Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah, serves up the Spa-gerita. The nonalcoholic cocktail contains limeade, orange juice and a salted lime wedge.
Click photo for larger image.

Food editor Amy McConnell Schaarsmith can be reached at aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1760.


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