- Photos by J.B. Forbes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some things you need to help celebrate the Fourth of July: American flags, insect repellent and lawn chairs to watch your favorite fireworks display.
And don’t forget the grenadine, cream and blue curaçao.
As they always say, it’s not the Fourth without a fifth. And if you plan to celebrate America’s independence, there are few ways to do it better than with a cocktail (or three) that allows you to fly your favorite colors: red, white and blue.
Red? Red is easy. You can make red drinks with grenadine, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, creme de cassis, Campari, strained strawberries, cherry juice or red wine.
White? Well, there’s cream, of course. And white creme de cacao, Irish cream liqueur, other cream liqueurs such as Amarula (it’s made from the fruit of the marula tree), milk and even yogurt liqueur.
But blue? Well, blue’s a problem. There is blue curacao. And then there is Windex, which I wouldn’t recommend drinking but at least the spills clean up nicely.
So I asked an expert, Chris Sanders, the bar manager at Sanctuaria Wild Tapas, to come up with some drinks to put a firecracker in your Fourth. He mixed and added, shook and strained, added a dash of this and three dashes of that and produced six summertime cocktails that were cool and refreshing and worthy of Old Glory.
Let’s start with the reds. Planter’s Punch has been around at least since 1878, when a whimsical, rhyming recipe for it was printed in Fun magazine. It’s still so popular that it’s one of the drinks made in competition by the International Bartenders Association.
Sanctuaria’s version begins with dark rum and adds to it fresh lemon juice, fresh orange juice and canned pineapple juice (it tastes good, it’s not too sweet and its quality is consistent, Sanders said). Grenadine and Angostura bitters add both flavor and the desired red color, with sweetness provided by homemade oleo sacchurum.
Sanders told me how to make oleo sacchurum. You might want to use orgeat, an almond syrup, instead.
The Planter’s Punch he made was fruity and refreshing, like Hawaiian Punch with a kick. It would be great for the Fourth or any sizzling summer day.
The other red drink Sanders poured is called a Sanctuaria Smash. It begins with a hefty pour of strong
whiskey tempered by lemon juice, strawberries, basil leaves and a hit of cinnamon simple syrup. Then it is all muddled together, shaken and strained into an ice-filled glass.
“It’s so popular we can’t even keep it in stock,” Sanders said, and I can understand why. It is a beautifully balanced drink, with a bit of sweetness playing off a hint of tartness from the strawberries and a soft undertone of cinnamon beneath it all. It was my favorite of the six drinks he made.
White drinks are next, including the famous Ramos Gin Fizz, one of the more storied concoctions from New Orleans.
“It is one of the most annoying drinks a bartender can make. Bartenders hate making this,” Sanders said, explaining that it requires a lot of time and effort.
The drink begins with gin, fresh lemon and lime juices, simple syrup and orange flower water. An ounce of cream makes it white, and then comes the special ingredient, an egg white.
This is the part the bartenders don’t like: You have to give this mixture a double shake. The first time, you shake it vigorously and at some length to make the egg white all nice and frothy. The second time, you add ice to make it cold — again, you shake it with vigor for some time.
Then you slowly pour it into a slug or two of soda water in the bottom of a glass. If done right, and if it works right, a half-inch or so of the froth will rise above the lip of the glass like a soufflé.
It doesn’t just look good, it tastes good: smooth, fruity and creamy. But having to go to all that trouble for a drink that could fail to rise correctly (also like a soufflé) is why Sanders calls it “a pressure drink.”
The other white drink he made is called At the Gate, because it was first created for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
It’s a Derby drink so it has mint, of course, in the form of mint simple syrup. This is mixed with cucumber-infused vodka, lime juice and St. Germain, the elderflower liqueur that was at the forefront of the craft-cocktail revolution.
This is more of a thirst-quencher. A little sweet, a little tart, it is just right for sipping on a porch on a hot day.
And finally, we come to the blue drinks.
The Leatherneck is a classic cocktail that I will admit I had never heard of before. Invented in the 1950s by a former Marine (hence the name, an affectionate nickname for Marines), it combines blue curacao, lime juice and whiskey — Sanctuaria uses Pendleton Canadian whiskey.
Because curacao is a liqueur from the laraha fruit, which is related to the orange, the Leatherneck has a nice citrus flavor. It also boasts a lovely color that is irresistibly blue.
The other blue cocktail is the amusingly named Tequila Mockingjay (“we were trying to figure out how many cross references we can get in one drink,” Sanders said).
It’s tequila, lime juice, blueberry simple syrup and a couple of dashes of jalapeño tincture for a subtle kick. Basically, Sanders said, it is a blueberry margarita.
“It’s simple, it’s easy, it tastes good,” he said. All of which are true. But it’s not quite blue. Even with the blueberry simple syrup, the color is more purple than blue — and on the red side of purple.
Maybe he should have used Windex.