If I may just state the obvious, it is unbearably HOT. I am subsisting on cold soups and endless glasses of iced coffee these days, and I’m sure that many of you are doing exactly the same thing. I shouldn’t bother to apply make-up anymore because it melts down my face the moment I step out the door, and I have resorted to sleeping on the couch in my living room because that’s where the air conditioner is. Since I don’t know when the heat is going to break, I must not delay a moment longer in sharing this Grapefruit-Ginger Cooler with you.
In honor of my brother's birthday today, it makes sense that I should post a cocktail recipe. As I have written in previous posts, Peter is a true artist, not only with a pen and brush but also with a cocktail shaker. I’m not just a biased big sister saying this, for my brother has had new customers come into his restaurant, order two cocktails and leave a hundred dollar bill telling him to keep the change for “this was the best martini I’ve ever had in my life”. In short, the man knows what he’s doing behind the bar.
It’s one thing for me to go to Peter’s workplace and have him create an inspired drink with a fully stocked bar at his disposal. It’s another thing for him to come into my kitchen with its hodge-podge of spirits and liqueurs plus whatever is in the fridge, and he still works cocktail magic. When I asked him last week to make me a refreshing drink, I watched him blend vodka with fresh grapefruit juice and a healthy glug of ginger liqueur. He added a dash of orange bitters and a large spoonful of the Apricot Sorbet that his son and I had made together, then shook the living daylights out of it in a cocktail shaker before straining it into a chilled martini glass. As if that weren’t enough, Mr. Virtuoso Bartender then flamed a lemon peel over it to release the fragrant lemony oil into the drink, creating an additional layer of citrus flavor. I was in heaven after a single sip.
Now, I realize that most people don’t necessarily have ginger liqueur or orange bitters on hand at all times, and unless you’re making every Kitchen Fiddler recipe along with me, you probably won’t have apricot sorbet kicking around in your freezer. So here is my easy version of the Grapefruit Ginger Cooler, which uses a ginger-infused simple syrup instead of the ginger liqueur. Mine may not be quite as glamorous or as potent as my brother’s creation, but it features the same delightful combination of spicy gingery heat tamed by the zippy citrus notes of the grapefruit. And when you are suffering through a massive heat wave, it is vitally important to have a thirst-quenching recipe like this to help you stay cool.
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For a more potent drink, you can serve it straight up in a chilled martini glass and omit the splash of soda. For a non-alcoholic version, omit the vodka, add an additional ounce each of the ginger syrup and grapefruit juice and an extra splash of seltzer water.
For each drink:
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Ginger-Infused Simple Syrup (see below)
3 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
Dash of orange bitters (optional)
Splash of club soda or seltzer water
A twist of grapefruit peel, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Ginger Syrup, grapefruit juice and the optional orange bitters. Shake well for 30 shakes and pour the entire mixture into an old-fashioned glass, ice and all. Add a splash of club soda and garnish with a grapefruit twist. Makes 1 refreshing drink.
Ginger-Infused Simple Syrup
This syrup is a great thing to have on hand, not only for these Grapefruit Ginger Coolers, but you can make a refreshing ginger spritzer by combining a tablespoon or two of this syrup with lemon-lime seltzer water and plenty of ice. I also love drizzling the ginger syrup over fresh fruit—berries in the summer, apples and pears in the fall and winter—and it is also lovely spooned over vanilla ice cream.
2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
1-½ cups water
1-½ teaspoons whole black peppercorns
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes until the ginger has thoroughly infused the syrup. Cool completely, then strain the mixture through a sieve into a glass jar. This will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 1-¼ cups ginger syrup.