Posted by Lisa Simpson – Summer doesn’t officially start for another month, but in Seattle, after our long grey blahdeblah winters we’re so hungry for sunshine that when we see it, and it’s warmer than 60, we consider it close enough. Since our sunshine is so hard to find and unpredictable, I have drink fixins on standby in my pantry.
Last year I was all about Lillet, that French concoction that was described to me as ‘happiness in a glass’. It’s so true. I like the blond, ripe with oranges and mystery florals, over ice with an orange slice. It’s simple and heavenly and like all proper aperitifs, half way through your glass you’ll be thinking, Damn I’m huuuungry, what’s for dinner?
This year, though, it’s going to be the summer of St Germain.
Have you seen it? In the lovely sculpted bottle? Which is probably why I bought it the first time, because I was suckered by that curvy glass, like a lady’s perfume bottle waiting for date night.
According to the St Germain people, (I read it on the brochure attached to the neck of the bottle) they send out strong but sympathetic men (les bohemians) on bicycles with baskets, to pedal around the French Alps looking for elder trees in bloom. They gently collect the blossoms to send to the St Germain factory where the blossoms are treated like treasures, treasures to be crushed and distilled and blended with other secret ingredients and then sent out into the world, to find me and my empty glass, waiting.
I am besotted with St Germain and I keep giving St Germain cocktails to anyone that looks thirsty. The aroma and flavors are nothing short of bewitching, Is it clingstone peach? Lychee? Cara Cara Oranges? Meyer Lemons? Liliac? Tea Rose? Tupelo honey? Peaches stewed in tupelo honey? I want to dab a bit behind my ears, put on something satin and throw a fur around my neck, then head off to watch jazz musicians play.
The moral of the story here is that you need to try it. But also, you need to find your easy signature cocktail, that one that you can quickly assemble from things you typically have around the kitchen to pass out to guests when the sun peaks out. Mine change yearly. There was the Summer of Albarino, other years devoted to G &T, Margaritas, prosecco. I’m ADD with things I put in my mouth, but that doesn’t mean you have to be, too. In fact, if you get your signature cocktail (which everyone needs to have,) as long as it’s good it doesn’t matter how often you serve it. Keep it simple and people will think you are brilliant.
And please, please: be stingy with the servings. 4 ounces of an aperitif or cocktail is plenty. You don’t want your guests tripping over the dog and falling asleep in the side yard before dinner is served. We’re grownups, after all. This isn’t a frat party. Remember, quality is always a better route to travel than quantity.
Slice up some oranges. Put them in a pitcher, along with any juice left on the cutting board, add plenty of ice, half a bottle of St Germain, half a bottle of cheapish dry white, (like Soave or Aligote. I used Chateau St Michelle’s sparkling wine- DO NOT use something oaked, like a California Chardonnay,) and a cup or so of club soda. Stir. When you make the 2nd round, use less St Germaine and bubbles and more club soda -people will already be smiling and you can stretch your cocktail dollar. I served about 10 people four rounds in this manner, with the first round being the most potent and the last being essentially elderflower-scented soda water. And we all made it to dinner.