The day for me to leave New York has come — or is, at least, fast approaching. And while I’ve been pretty successful at cleaning out my pantry (down to one bag of frozen edamame!), my liquor cabinet was a little full to bursting. Combine that with the fact that New York seems to have skipped spring entirely and gone straight for summer (pleasant, not yet horribly sticky summer), and I think it’s pretty clear that a bbq had to happen.
Usually, I’m on food duty at these kind of things, but this weekend I decided to leave that to my roommates (who made, respectively, fantastic beer-boiled bratwurst and grilled lamb chops with garlic aioli — way to go, boys). And I learned that not only is making the drinks fun, it’s also something you can largely do way ahead, so you can take it easy the day of the big bbq itself. And, most of all, I leaned that when you actually follow a recipe (even as a loose guideline) for punch — instead of just throwing random liquids in a bowl — drinks go from being palatable to delicious.
I didn’t realize it when I chose them, but both of these recipes rely on infusing the alcohol with fruit anywhere from one to three days ahead of time. I think that strategy really worked, as the strawberries in the sangria were noticeably drained of color a day later, and the pineapple chunks in the pisco were really really noticeably boozy (incredibly so — like vodka watermelon on steroids).
One more commonality: both of these drinks are better with seltzer, god among beverages. Honestly, if I had to choose to never drink gin again or never drink seltzer again, I think I would give up the gin (or rum, or tequila, or vodka). Seltzer would only lose to bourbon, sparkling wine, and red wine.
I didn’t read the pisco punch recipe super well, and while I faithfully soaked my pinapple three days ahead, I didn’t notice the second step of infusing sugar syrup one day ahead and ended up having to do it day of. I’ve written out my cheater’s version below because, as nice as it is to do some of your prep ahead of time, who really wants to devote three days of activity to a punch? You deserve a day off. Also, who wants to throw out booze-soaked pineapple (as the recipe directed)? Not this girl.
So, here you are, two summer punches, via the cement lot next to my apartment. An appropriate send off to New York, I think.
Oprah’s White Wine Sangria
Taken, exactly, from O, the Oprah Magazine
Oprah says this serves 8, which seemed about right
– 1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
– 2 oranges, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rings
– 2 lemons, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rings
– 3 peaches, pitted and cut into 8 wedges
– 3 bottles white wine (dry to semidry), such as Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay
– 1 liter sparkling water
Place all fruit in a large pitcher or bowl, add wine and allow to sit at room temperature 4 to 24 hours (I let it sit for 24, and it was really amazing how much the wine sucked the color/flavor out of the fruit). When ready to serve, add sparkling water and ice. Serve in a bowl with a ladle (make sure there’s fruit in every serving – thanks, Oprah).
Adapted from Bon Appétit
– 1 4-pound pineapple, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
– 1 750-ml bottle Pisco
– 1 ½ cups sugar
– 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime peel
– 1 1/2 teaspoons grated grapefruit peel
– 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
– Ice cubes
– Optional: Sparkling Water
1. THREE DAYS AHEAD: Place pineapple pieces in large jar. Pour Pisco over. Cover and refrigerate 3 days, shaking occasionally.
2. Day of, an hour or so before serving: Make simple syrup. Stir sugar, water, grapefruit peel, and lime peel in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil 3 minutes. Cool syrup at room temperature (about 45 minutes to an hour).
3. Add cooled simple syrup and lime juice to the pisco and pineapple chunks (you can strai the pineapple out if you want, but I think that’s a waste). Add seltzer to taste, if desired.