6.21.11 Ruby Sippers
Summer is officially here! As the inimitable Bob Marley says, "Sun is shining. Weather is sweet. Make you wanna move your dancing feet." In honor of its much-awaited arrival—and the long, hot days and balmy nights it brings with it—my next few posts will be dedicated to the kinds of cooling drinks you'll be craving. Today, it's the taste of summer in a glass. Icy cold strawberries pureed with basil and lemon juice into a refreshing slushie I call the Ruby Sipper. As with so many summer classics, you can simply add a little tequila, gin or rum for an R-rated version. I'll teach you a couple of neat little tricks that you can apply to all sorts of fruity drinks. All you need is a blender and a song in your heart.
The first thing you want are some gloriously ripe strawberries, hopefully coming to you from your local farmers market in a cardboard quart and not from a big box supermarket in one of those sealed plastic cartons. Fresh fruit needs to breathe! Choose strawberries that smell good—sweet and red and ready. A great trick is to buy lots and freeze them. First, pop out the stems. There is a special tool designed for this, called a strawberry huller, but all you really need is a small, sharp knife. Use it to trace a circle around the stem and scoop it out in one quick movement, almost like coring a tiny apple.
I like to process lots at a time, like an entire flat, but you can start with a couple of pints. Spread your berries out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze them until hard. This makes it easy to pop them into ziploc bags and they won't all stick together in a big, unwieldy block. Now you can take out handfuls to blend with yogurt and bananas for your morning smoothies, or to bake into a pie, or to make sauce for ice cream, or for your Ruby Sippers. Of course you can do this with any other fruit, like chunks of mango, slices of banana, pitted cherries, even cubes of watermelon. The frozen chunks of fruit totally transform cold and frozen drinks because you don't have to use regular ice and thus the results are more potent, less watered-down. You can even use the fruit instead of ice cubes in iced tea or lemonade or anything really. Think jasmine iced tea with a few chunks for frozen mango, or lemonade with frozen raspberries...
Another great thing to have on hand is lemon syrup. It's like simple syrup, only you use lemon juice instead of water. So, equal parts sugar and lemon juice. Start with one cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice to one cup of organic cane sugar. (Superfine sugar dissolves more quickly but is not as good for you, plus you've got all the time in the world.) I prefer not to boil this, as it changes the flavor of the lemon. Make it in advance, because it takes the sugar an hour or two to dissolve completely, and the flavor and color stay bright and pristine. This will keep in a jar in your fridge.
Another bit of advice: get yourself a jigger. I like the 2oz/1oz version and find it indispensable for making cocktails. It lets you measure with consistency. Once you know how to make one drink to your liking, you can multiply the quantities with ease. This recipe can be repurposed with frozen pineapple and lime syrup; frozen blackberries; frozen watermelon; frozen peaches—get creative and go crazy!
The Ruby Sipper is a simple blend of frozen strawberries, lemon syrup, water or liquor, and fresh basil. Don't like basil? Try mint. Or lemon balm. Or nothing. Because the bright red flavor of strawberries can stand on its own. Unlike you, after a few of these.
- — 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- — pinch sea salt
- — 2-3 ounces lemon syrup, to taste
- — 3 ounces tequila, rum, gin or water
- — 1 scant cup frozen fresh strawberries
- — basil sprig garnish
Place all ingredients except garnish in a blender and puree until smooth and slushy. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with basil sprig.