6 Recipes for Seasonal Drinks Inspired by Summer’s Bounty

by Hannah Walhout

Published: 6/28/23, Last updated: 6/28/23

We’re heading into the height of summer, which means farmers’ markets and CSA boxes across the country are overflowing with colorful, plump produce. It’s a glorious time for fruit in particular, with berries and stone fruits and melons galore. And though you might not know it, other summer favorites like tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, zucchini and even corn fall under the fruit umbrella, too (botanically, that is).

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Abra Berens, chef and author of this year’s “Pulp: A Practical Guide to Cooking With Fruit,” encourages us to think more creatively about how we use this bounty. “Fruit is often pigeon-holed as a snack or to make jam, but it is much more versatile,” Berens told FoodPrint. Her latest cookbook includes plenty of recipes and ideas for bringing fruit to the table, whether you’re preparing it fresh or prolonging its life. And among the more usual suspects for preserving (like drying or candying) you’ll also find mixers and thirst-quenchers like cordials, syrups and shrubs.

When thinking about ways to use up summer fruit, don’t sleep on the possibility of drinking it — a fun and easy way to highlight seasonal flavors or make the most of produce that might go to waste. So how to integrate fruit into your at-home mixology toolkit? Longtime drinks professional Ignacio “Nacho” Jimenez recommends having some fun with it: “Find a fruit or vegetable you love,” says the owner of Superbueno, a new bar in Manhattan’s East Village. “Do a quick Google search on how to make a vinegar, syrup, jam or infusion into your favorite spirit. Try it, cook it and don’t be afraid to make a mistake. What do you think we do as bartenders?”

Read on for drink recipes from Berens, Jimenez and other cooks and cocktail professionals, plus tips for getting new flavors out of tried-and-true summer produce favorites.

(Strawberry) Spritz and Startz

Strawberries make for great summer salads or pickles and infused vinegars, pairing well with savory and herbal notes. And for Fred Beebe, beverage director at the brand-new Philadelphia bar Poste Haste, “strawberries and basil are a match made in heaven.” He shared the recipe for the Spritz and Startz, a bubbly cocktail on Post Haste’s opening menu that combines these two summery flavors.

The drink: Beebe wanted to create a variation on a spritz that skipped sparkling wine in favor of “the amazing local dry ciders of the northeast United States.” (Post Haste sources ingredients only from the Eastern U.S., especially its fertile home state.) When strawberry season began in Pennsylvania, he developed a recipe built upon a strawberry-basil agrodolce, an Italian condiment that translates to “sour-sweet.”

Why it’s waste-conscious: The leafy tops of the strawberries play a crucial role: After trimming the fruit to infuse into gin, Beebe saves the tops and simmers them in simple syrup for the agrodolce. “This creates a bigger flavor,” he explains, “and allows me to purchase a more expensive local fruit at a smaller volume, waste less and support a local farmer for the same cost.”

Get more information about cooking with and shopping for strawberries in the Real Food Encyclopedia.

Recipe: Spritz and Startz

Ingredients

.75 ounces strawberry-infused gin*
.75 ounce gentian liqueur [Beebe uses one from Philadelphia Distilling]
1 ounce strawberry-basil agrodolce**
.25 ounce yuzu juice [Beebe recommends the Yuzu Super Juice brand]
4 ounces dry cider [at Post Haste, it’s Ploughman’s Black Arkansas Pét Nat]
1 ounce soda water
Fresh basil leaf, for garnish

Method

Stir together gin, gentian liqueur, agrodolce, and yuzu juice in a glass without ice, then top with cider and soda water. Add ice last to ensure that the ingredients do not separate. Garnish with basil leaf.

*Recipe: Strawberry Infused Gin + Strawberry Top Syrup

Ingredients

750 grams strawberries
750 milliliters gin [Beebe uses the Snug Harbor Gin from New Liberty Distilling]
35 ounces water
35 ounces sugar

Method

  1. Cut tops of strawberries and set aside. Cut strawberries in half. Add halved strawberries and gin to a 64-ounce glass mason jar.
  2. Add strawberry tops to a 64-ounce glass mason jar with water and sugar.
  3. Sous vide both at 160 degrees for 2 hours. Let sit overnight and strain. The syrup will go into the agrodolce; the gin will keep for up to 1 month.

**Recipe: Strawberry Basil Agrodolce

Editor’s note: This recipe yields about 2 quarts, but can be cut down as needed. Leftover agrodolce can be used in sauces, glazes, marinades or even on the side of a cheese plate.

Ingredients

1430 grams strawberries
35 ounces sugar
35 ounces water
7 ounces apple cider vinegar (ACV)
70 grams basil, both leaves and stems
1/4 teaspoon salt
Strawberry top syrup [above]

Method

  1. Cut tops off of strawberries. In a large pot, add new strawberry tops to the strawberry top syrup. Simmer for 20 minutes. While simmering, cut strawberries in half.
  2. In a separate large pot, combine 7 ounces ACV with 5 ounces sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain strawberry top syrup into simmered ACV-sugar mixture, bring to a boil for 2 minutes and then cut heat off. Once bubbles stop, add 70 grams basil, halved strawberries and salt. Infuse into hot syrup for 30 minutes.
  3. Pour into large covered cambro [or other covered heatproof container] and place in refrigerator overnight. Next day, pour mixture into blender and blend on high for 30 seconds. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Golden Cherry Fizz

Ryan Chetiyawardana’s golden cherry fizz. Photo by Kim Lightbody.

“Fresh cherries are one of my favorite fruits,” Ryan Chetiyawardana (perhaps better known as Mr Lyan) shares in the forthcoming new edition of “Mr Lyan’s Cocktails at Home.” The different colors and varieties offer a spectrum of flavor: “When in season they can run the gamut of floral and bright, right through to something very deep and autumnal.”

The drink: In his book, the English cocktail star — the force behind, most recently, Silver Lyan in Washington, D.C. — has a whole section dedicated to farmers’ market recipes, including this golden cherry fizz. Chetiyawardana suggests black cherries if you can get them; he also uses an egg yolk instead of the more common white (“it gives a wonderful richness”) which can be omitted for a vegan version.

Why it’s waste-conscious: While this recipe involves infusing the cherry flavor into wine (and then removing them), Chetiyawardana advises readers to “Keep the fruit after [straining] the infusion, too — they are great folded into salads, or served alongside cold cuts.”

Get more information about cooking with and shopping for cherries in the Real Food Encyclopedia.

Recipe: Golden Cherry Fizz

Ingredients

Handful of fresh cherries
10 shots (250 milliliters/10 ounces) light red wine
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon loose-leaf Earl Grey tea
4 shots (100 milliliters/4 ounces) orange bitters [Chetiyawardana recommends Regan’s]
Just over a shot (30 milliliters/1.2 ounces) vodka
Just under a shot (20 milliliters/0.8 ounces) lemon juice
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon simple syrup
Chilled soda, to finish
Coin of lemon, to garnish
Fresh cherry, to garnish

Method

  1. Add the tea to the orange bitters, leave to infuse in the fridge for 24 hours, then strain.
  2. De-stone the cherries, slice, then add to the red wine and sugar in a microwave-safe container. Stir, cover, then blast on high in the microwave for 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then strain.
  3. Add a shot (25 milliliters/1 ounce) of the cherry wine mixture with the vodka, lemon juice, egg yolk, sugar syrup and 4 dashes of the infused bitters to a shaker. Shake without ice, then add cubed ice and shake again. Double strain into a chilled highball without ice, then crown with soda. Snap the lemon coin over the top, then discard. Garnish with a sliced cherry placed on the rim.

Reprinted with permission from “Mr Lyan’s Cocktails at Home: Good Things to Drink with Friends” by Ryan Chetiyawardana, © 2023. Published by White Lion Publishing.

Peach Pit Shrub

Peaches are delicious in almost any form: eaten fresh with cream, made into jam or blended with a touch of sugar for a bellini. In “Pulp,” Abra Berens remembers summers gathering juicy, fragrant peaches with her grandfather: “We’d go early in the morning and pick bushel basket after bushel basket,” she writes, “only to wrap up the day sitting on the tailgate as he sliced a sun-warmed fruit with his pocket knife, juice dripping down my chin.”

The drink: Berens describes her recipes for peach pit vinegar and shrub as “the product of bounty.” Faced with a large haul, “It seemed natural to try to use even that last bit,” she explained via email. The first step in her freeform process is to steep the pits in apple cider vinegar (“it gets better as it sits but even a short marinade does a lot”), imparting a flavor she likens to bitter almond. To make a shrub, just add an equal part of sugar and shake.

Why it’s waste-conscious: “I would say, fruit often gets a bad rep for going to waste,” Berens noted. In the book she credits pastry chef Emily Spurlin for this technique to squeeze another round of flavor out of her peaches. And it doesn’t just work with pits: “Lately, I’ve been infusing fruit scraps (or the ends of a particular fruit haul) in vinegar and using that instead of lemon or my other old standbys.”

Get more information about cooking with and shopping for peaches in the Real Food Encyclopedia.

Recipe: Peach Pit Vinegar + Shrub

Ingredients

Peach pits
Apple cider vinegar
Brown sugar optional

Method

  1. Soak the pits (especially those that still have flesh clinging to them) in apple cider vinegar to impart that flavor.
  2. To make a shrub, take ½ cup [120 ml] of peach pit vinegar and ½ cup [100 g] of brown sugar, shake to dissolve, then use as the base for a spritz, either with just soda water or soda water and bourbon. You can also store in the fridge for several weeks or until it doesn’t taste good to you anymore.

Reprinted with permission from “Pulp: A Practical Guide to Cooking with Fruit” by Abra Berens, © 2023. Published by Chronicle Books.

Roasted Corn Sour

The roasted corn sour at Superbueno. Photo by Kristina Lopez.

For Nacho Jimenez, one sign of the season is particularly delicious. “This cocktail was inspired by the smell of roasted corn while walking the streets of Bushwick during the summer,” he says of his roasted corn sour, a hit on the Superbueno menu. “To me it’s such a New York thing. At the same time, corn is an integral part of our (Mexican) culture. It’s the ultimate ingredient in Mexico and I wanted to create a cocktail to honor my people.”

The drink: “Roasting the corn gives the cocktail this fun, smokey flavor,” Jimenez explains, and also concentrates the sugars to draw out the sweetness, which he complements with chiles and epazote, a Mexican herb. The spirits highlight the star ingredient: reposado tequila, which adds “vanilla notes from the oak casks,” and a Mexican whisky — made with corn, of course — “that just amps it all up.”

Why it’s waste-conscious: This recipe makes use of all the parts of your corn: Kernels and cobs both add flavor to a syrup, which forms the base of the drink, and even the husks come into play with a powder that adds drama to the final presentation. (“If all else fails,” says Jiminez of his recipe process, “just dehydrate the ingredient and make it into a garnish, ha!”)

Get more information about cooking with and shopping for corn in the Real Food Encyclopedia.

Recipe: Roasted Corn Sour

Ingredients

1 ½ ounces Mexican corn whisky [Jimenez uses Abasolo]
½ ounces reposado tequila [Jimenez uses Espolon]
1 ounces roasted yellow corn & epazote syrup*
½ ounces lime juice
1 ounces egg white
2 dashes saline solution [salt and water]
Lemon twist
Corn husk dust**

Method

  1. First put the egg white in a shaker and dry shake. Then add remaining ingredients into the same shaker with ice and shake very hard. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube.
  2. Express a lemon twist over the top and discard (this helps cover up the smell of the egg). Dust half of the top with corn husk dust.

*Recipe: Roasted Yellow Corn & Epazote Syrup

Editor’s note: This recipe yields about 6 cups, but can be cut down as needed. Leftover syrup can be used in place of sugar in sauces and marinades, to moisten or soak cakes or as the base for a nonalcoholic spritz.

Ingredients

2000 grams corn (around 8 ears)
2000 millileters water
3 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
3 cloves
2000 grams demerara sugar
6 guajillo chiles, toasted and deseeded
20 grams of epazote

Method

  1. Peel the corn and place on the grill until charred.
  2. Cut off the corn kernels and put in a container. Place cobs into a pot. Reserve husks and set aside.
  3. Add water, cinnamon, anise and cloves into the pot. Bring to a soft boil and let it reduce half of its weight, then cool. Strain the corn water into a container and discard the cobs.
  4. Cut the epazote leaves into small pieces.
  5. Combine the corn kernels, sugar, 1000 milliliters of the corn water, guajillo and epazote into a container, then mix and let rest for 1 day.
  6. Add the remaining 500 milliliters of corn water and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Strain and store in the fridge.

**Recipe: Corn Husk Dust

Arrange corn husks on a tray and place in the oven at 250 F for 3 hours until charred completely. Pulse charred husks in a blender until it’s a dust.

Tomato Syrup

Tomato water, the basis for many cocktail recipes in “Simply Tomato.” Photo by Ellen Silverman.

Food writer Martha Holmberg begins her latest cookbook, “Simply Tomato,” by meditating on why exactly this bright, juicy ingredient inspires such devotion. “My theory is that we are first attracted by the sensuous color and shape,” she writes — after all, tomatoes come in many silhouettes, sizes and hues —  “but then [we] get hooked by the flavor, which is a complex dance between sweet, tangy, and that elusive umami.” That’s a cocktail triple-threat.

The drink: Holmberg builds several cocktail recipes from this tomato syrup — adding a savory element to a gin and tonic, for example, or using it in place of cranberry in a cosmo variation she deems the “cosmato.” It’s also great with seltzer and a squeeze of lemon or lime. And it’s not just for drinks: Holmberg suggests whisking it into vinaigrettes, glazes, marinades or leche de tigre.

Why it’s waste-conscious: Holmberg writes that this syrup is a great way to make use of any overflow tomato bounty that is “begging for some kind of processing.” She also suggests using a neatly pared tomato skin, ribboned on a toothpick, as an easy garnish. Lemons aren’t the only way to twist.

Get more information about cooking with and shopping for tomatoes in the Real Food Encyclopedia.

Recipe: Tomato Syrup

Ingredients

2 cups (480 milliliters) tomato water*
Optional additional flavorings**

Method

In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the tomato water to a simmer over medium heat. Adjust the heat so the water simmers gently and cook until the tomato water has reduced by about three-quarters, or until you have the flavor and consistency you want. Some amount of tomato solids may accumulate around the edge of the pot, so for the clearest syrup, take care not to disturb them. Note that the syrup will thicken as it cools. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

**Add one or a combination of these flavorful ingredients to the tomato water. Taste about halfway through the reduction process to check on the flavor; if it’s pronounced, remove the flavorings. Otherwise, leave in and strain out after the syrup is cooled and ready to use.

1 or 2 whole garlic cloves
2 or 3 slices fresh ginger
A 4-inch (10-centimeter) piece fresh lemongrass, crushed
1 dried red chile, such as cayenne or de árbol
½ star anise
1 small cinnamon stick

*Recipe: Tomato Water

Ingredients

2 pounds (900 grams) very ripe and juicy tomatoes (don’t use plum tomatoes), cored and roughly chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Method

  1. Put the tomatoes and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until you have a rough puree. Pour the tomatoes into the sieve; if you have too many to fit, wait until some of the juice has drained and the tomato solids have collapsed and then add the rest, or use two setups.
  2. Loosely cover the tomatoes and leave to drain for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours. Give the tomatoes a few gentle stirs during the draining period, making sure that the cheesecloth isn’t clogged with tomato solids. You can squeeze the tomato solids to get the last drops of liquid, but you risk adding a lot of tomato particles to your water, so if your goal is clarity, resist the urge to squeeze. If you want to repurpose the tomato solids, freeze them and add them to a batch of tomato soup, tomato paste, or tomato sauce at your leisure. Otherwise, add to your compost. Store the tomato water in an airtight container in the fridge, and use it within 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Excerpted from “Simply Tomato” by Martha Holmberg (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2023.

Watermelon Rind Cordial

Watermelon is used in all sorts of summer cocktails, but those mojitos and sangrias typically leave a pile of rinds in their wake. “There’s still a lot of juice in watermelon rinds,” though, explains sustainability educator and consultant Kelsey Ramage. Just be sure to use them fast; watermelon goes bad famously quickly, so freshly cut is always best.

The drink: Ramage is director of the Trash Collective, a drinks consultancy that began in 2016 as a free resource for bartenders and roving pop-up. This watermelon rind cordial was developed like many recipes in its compendium: “We asked bars to save whatever waste they had,” Ramage says, and an experiment began. “The cordial is quite green, though it does have a little bit of a watermelon back note. But it’s much more of a grassy flavor, which is quite cool when you’re pairing it with things like gin or cachaca or an agricole.”

Why it’s waste-conscious: This recipe makes use of something that, more often than not, especially in the bar industry, finds its way to the garbage. 

Get more information about cooking with and shopping for watermelon in the Real Food Encyclopedia.

Ingredients

200 grams watermelon rinds, washed
400 grams sugar

Method

  1. Cut watermelon rinds into 2- to 4-inch pieces and place in a large container. Cover with sugar, seal the container and leave in a refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. Don’t leave any longer than 24 hours, as watermelon goes “off” and you don’t want to be cleaning up any smelly mess.
  2. The next day, most of the sugar should have dissolved into a liquid. Give the rest of the sugar a little stir, lob it all into a blender and blend until the sugar has completely dissolved. Take out and strain through a fine mesh strainer. If it’s a big thick, you can add a touch of water after blending til you hit the consistency you want. Refrigerate and use within 1-2 days.

Top photos by (from left to right): Kim Lightbody; Kristina Lopez; Ellen Silverman. 

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