The Best Red, White and Blue Berry Drinks for the 4th of July

A martini with Strawberry Rosemary Lemonade (Photo by Maria Hunt)
A martini with Strawberry Rosemary Lemonade and a blooming sprig of fresh rosemary (Photo by Maria Hunt)

I thought it would a fun challenge to create three summer berry cocktails – one red, one white and one blue – for the 4th of July. So I went out and bought every type of berry I could- raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries- along with white cherries and got to work.

July is National Berry Month and right now all these berries are super sweet and very affordable, even the organic ones from Driscoll, a huge family owned berry company in central California. Besides being delicious, berries are one of nature’s superfoods. They’re low in calories and packed with Vitamin C, fiber and all sorts of antioxidants, plant substances that fight ailments like cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. Studies have shown that the purplish-blue hue of  blueberries and  blackberries means they have particular helpful plant chemicals, while red berries like strawberries and raspberries are loaded with other good antioxidants.

The RED cocktail is a Strawberry Rosemary Lemonade that started with a simple syrup flavored with fresh rosemary from my garden mixed with juice from fresh organic strawberries. It’s easier if you have a juicer, but if you don’t just puree the berries in a blender and strain. Once you’ve created this syrup, you’ll find it useful as a base for all manner of drinks or to drizzle over vanilla ice cream. Start with 1.5 ounces of Strawberry Rosemary Syrup and, according to your taste:

  • Mix with sparkling water for a tangy Italian style soda
  • Add regular water for lemonade
  • Add water and freeze the lemonade to make popsicles.
  • Drizzle it into a glass of champagne or sparkling wine
  • Mix with 2 ounces gin, vodka or white rum and shake over ice to create a martini
  • Blend with 2 ounces tequila and ice to make an unforgettable margarita

Strawberry Rosemary Lemonade
Makes 3 cups syrup

1 cup fresh strawberry juice
1 cup lemon and/or lime juice
1 cup Rosemary Syrup (see below)

Combine the strawberry juice with the lime or lemon juice and the Rosemary Syrup. Pour into a clean bottle and cap. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. To make Rosemary Syrup, mix two cups water with one cup granulated sugar in a pot over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add needles from 4 sprigs fresh rosemary and simmer for a couple minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain the syrup.

Berry White Elderflower Sangria (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)
White Elderflower Berry Sangria (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

The WHITE cocktail is a White Elderflower Berry Sangria that’s spiked with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur made from these fragrant white flowers that bloom in the French Alps and every berry I could find. The bitters add a note of complexity while the lemon juice keeps it from being too sweet. The secret to good sangria is time. The fruit needs time to sit in the liqueur and absorb its flavors and vice versa, so if at all possible, start your sangria the day before you plan to serve it.

White Elderflower Berry Sangria
Makes 6 servings

1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1 cup white cherries, halved and pitted
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1 cup St. Germain White Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 cup gin or vodka
1/4 cup orange liqueur like Cointreau
1/4 cup Homemade Sour Mix (see Recipes page)
2 teaspoons orange bitters
1 bottle brut sparkling wine, well-chilled
handful fresh mint, torn

Add the strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries and blackberries to a large pitcher. Top with the St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, gin or vodka and orange liqueur. Let sit for a few hours in the refrigerator or overnight if possible. Or if you’re in a hurry, add the sour mix, orange bitters and sparkling wine to the pitcher. Add a cup of crushed ice. Top with the freshly torn mint and serve by ladling some fruit into each glass and then pouring sangria on top.

The Blue Basil Fizz (photo by Maria C. Hunt)
The Blue Basil Fizz with a African Blue Basil garnish (photo by Maria C. Hunt)

The BLUE drink isn’t technically blue as that shade really doesn’t exist in nature. The Blue Basil Fizz is more of an inky purple thanks to all those antioxidants in blackberries and blueberries. These berries shine when mixed with Chambord black raspberry liqueur imported from France and muddled with fresh basil. Top it off with prosecco, the light sparkling wine from Italy for the refreshing fizz.

Blue Basil Fizz
Makes 1 cocktail
6 blueberries
4 blackberries
3 leaves basil
splash Homemade Sour Mix (see Recipes page)
1 ounce Chambord
3 to 4 ounces prosecco, well chilled
sprig basil for garnish
drinking straw (optional)

In a heavy pint glass or mixing glass, add the blueberries, blackberries, basil and Homemade Sour Mix. Muddle until the mixture is very pulpy and fragrant. Pour it into a tall Collins style glass. Add the Chambord and fill three-quarters with ice. Top off with prosecco and garnish with the sprig of basil and a straw.

Cocktails created by Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl, author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion on Amazon.com

Red, White & Blue Mojito – A Perfect Summer Cocktail

Raspberries, white cherries and blueberries make this Red, White & Blue Mojito perfect for the 4th of July or all summer long. (Photo by Maria Hunt)
Raspberries, white cherries and blueberries make this Red, White & Blue Mojito perfect for 4th of July barbecues and picnics and all summer long. (Photo by Maria Hunt)

Summer is here and it’s the time for refreshing and light cocktails. Nothing says that more to me than juicy summer fruit like raspberries, blueberries and cherries.

With July being National Berry Month and the peak season for all sorts of berries, its make a perfect time to explore making cocktails with them – so I am. All through the month of July, look to The Bubbly Girl for drink and food recipes using fresh berries.

With the 4th of July approaching, I created this Red, White & Blue Mojito with raspberries, white cherries and blueberries. Look for organic berries – Driscoll’s organic berries can be found at many grocery stores – as berries can absorb chemical residues from pesticides. This light cocktail doesn’t use rum – though you can certainly add a splash of your favorite white rum if you must. Instead I designed this drink to either be a non-alcoholic faux-jito with sparkling water for people who don’t drink or as a sparkling cocktail flavored with a little Chambord black raspberry liqueur and brut sparkling wine for those who do. A splash of Homemade Sour Mix – one of the recipes from my sparkling cocktail book The Bubbly Bar available on Amazon.com – adds brightness.

This berries, cherries and mint in this cocktail are muddled, meaning they’re gently smashed with a tool called a muddler until they release their juice and fragrant oils. I love my wooden muddler that a friend brought me from Brazil years ago, but many of the newer muddlers are made from a combination of plastic and metal because they’re easier to clean. When muddling, be sure to choose a sturdy glass like this vintage style tumbler from Anthropologie stores or the glass from a cocktail shaker.

Red, White & Blue Mojito
Makes 1 cocktail
3 red raspberries
2 white cherries, pitted and halved (or 3 golden raspberries in season)
4 blueberries
4 fresh mint leaves
1 ounce Homemade Sour Mix (See Recipes Page)
NEXT ADD EITHER:
4 ounces sparkling water
OR
3/4 ounce Chambord black raspberry liqueur
3 to 4 ounces brut or extra dry sparkling wine
berries and mint for garnish

Add the raspberries, white cherries (or golden raspberries) blueberries and mint to a sturdy glass. Slowly smash the fruit and herbs with the muddler until you have a juicy and fragrant pulp in the bottom of the glass. Add the sour mix and fill the glass 3/4 full with crushed ice. For the faux-jito, top with the sparkling water and stir gently. Or if you want a drink with alcohol, add the Chambord and then top with the sparkling wine and stir gently. Garnish with a combination of berries and mint.

Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: The Ginger Snap with Sparkling Sake

This original cocktail I call the Ginger Snap mixes fresh ginger root with crisp sparkling sake.  (Photo by Paul Body)
This original cocktail I call the Ginger Snap mixes fresh ginger root with crisp sparkling sake. (Photo by Paul Body)

Just like most of us started out drinking cheap beer and sweet pink zinfandel, my early sake experiences were with awful stuff served warm so that I couldn’t tell how bad it was. Fortunately, there’s been something of a sake revolution going on in the U.S. and with events like the San Diego Japan Society’s Sake & Beer Festival on June 25, we’re being exposed to all the elegant and refined junmai ginjo and junmai daiginjo sakes that have all the complexity of a fine wine. (For an excellent and detail discussion of the different styles of sake, be sure to visit this sake tutorial on John Gauntner’s appreciation site Sake World.com.)

But sparkling sake is still something of a mystery to many domestic sake drinkers. It’s relatively new in Japan too, dating back to the 1940s I’m told, as compared to nihonsu or traditional sake, which has been around since 300 BC, according to historians.

How is sparkling sake made?

John at Sake World writes that sparkling sake is made by stopping the rice mash’s fermentation a bit early, while the alcohol is at 5 to 10 to percent. There’s still some sugar left in the mix, which is why sparkling sake often tastes a bit sweeter than still sake. The the brew is bottled and a second fermentation is started to give it its bubbles. Most sparkling sakes are considered junmai sakes, meaning they’re made from just rice polished to 70 percent, water and the koji which starts the fermentation.

So what does sparkling sake taste like?

Well, that depends on which brand you purchase. I like the creamy crispness, floral and slightly yeasty rice notes of drier sparkling sakes such as Gekkeikan Zipang (About $6) by Sidney Frank Importing or the Trader Joe’s house brand sparkling sake (about $4). Dry sakes are great in cocktails as a foil to sweet, fruity flaovrs. Other sakes like Hana Awaka in the frosty pink bottle, are a bit sweeter and fruitier, designed to appeal to women. A great one to seek out is Hou Hou Shu (about $1o), made from rice that Marumoto grows in an artisanal method and packaged in a pretty sky blue bottle with sparkles.

Easy-to-fin sparkling sakes, usually sold in smaller bottles, include (from left to right) Zipang, Hou Hou Shu and Trader Joe's brand. (Photo by Paul Body)
Easy-to-find sparkling sakes, usually sold in smaller bottles, include (from left to right) Zipang, Hou Hou Shu and Trader Joe's house brand. (Photo by Paul Body)

If all this talk of sake has whetted your appetite to taste and learn more, then the Beer and Sake Festival from 6 to 10 p.m. June 25 at Arterra in the San Diego Marriott Del Mar will feature, tasting of over 50 sakes and beers, a Sake 101 class taught by a sake master, the Sushi Masters Competition and food from area restaurants including Zenbu. Tickets ae $60 or $40 for Japan Society members; to purchase visit Japan Society.org.

Ssparkling sake cocktail recipes

Or you could go get a bottle of sparkling sake and make a cocktail like this Sparkling Sake Lemonade at the blog Umamimart or a round of Ginger Snap cocktails from my new book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, August 2009)

Ginger Snap

Makes 1 cocktail

thin slices peeled fresh ginger root

1/2 ounce Homemade Sour Mix (recipe follows)

1 ounce Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur

4 ounces dry sparkling sake

2 slivers candied ginger, for garnish

cocktail umbrellas, if you like

Add the ginger and sour mix to a rocks glass and muddle until the ginger is bruised and becomes very fragrant. Strain the ginger and sour mixture into a champagne flute. Top with the ginger liqueur and sparkling sake. Garnish with the candied ginger, and a cocktail umbrella is you’ve got one. To make the Sour Mix, combine one cup sugar and one cup combined fresh lemon and lime juice in a nonreactive pot over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool; and pour into a clean bottle. The sour mix can be stored for up to one week in the refrigerator.

Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Pineapple Ginger Daiquiri

pineapple-ginger-daiquiri
The Pineapple Ginger Daiquiri with Mount Gay Eclipse Rum and homemade ginger syrup makes a fragrant way to slip into a mellow summer mood.

So I had mountains of work to do at the computer… but my mind kept wandering. I think it was the aroma of the fresh pineapple I had resting on the counter that kept calling me to the kitchen. Or maybe it was the fact that I had just met Chesterfield Brown, the brand ambassador for Mount Gay Rum. Mount Gay which is based in Barbados is the oldest rum distillery in the world, dating back to 1703.

Whether it’s light or dark, spiced or plain, rum has this slightly sweet, warm fragrance that invites you in. Over lunch at Rice in the W Hotel San Diego, Brown and I sat with three wine glasses in front of us. But instead of wine, the glasses held three different styles of rum.  We swirled the clear golden liquid and the bowls of the wine glasses filled with aromas of rum.

Chesterfield Brown is the Global Brand Ambassador for Mount Gay Rum of Barbados.
Chesterfield Brown is the Global Brand Ambassador for Mount Gay Rum of Barbados.

The youngest rum, the Mount Gay Eclipse, smelled of caramelized pineapple, brown sugar and vanilla. Brown said Eclipse is a fun cocktail rum, for mixing with ginger ale or ginger beer. Next we tried the Mount Gay XO which stands for extra old because it’s a blend of rums aged eight to 15 years; in case you’re headed to the Caribbean, you’ll sound in the know if you call the XO Mount Gay Black Label. It was fragrant with caramel, almonds and vanilla; Brown said the XO sets a mellow mood and is meant for relaxing with friends. The last rum we tasted was the mighty Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection Rum, a super-premium rum recently launched; Brown said the master distiller took two years to perfect the blend of rums that have been aged between 10 and 30 years. This one had a rich, spicy nose and tasted of toast and leather. Brown said if he got into some Mount Gay 1703 while he was out one night, he probably wouldn’t come home at all!

Whether you plan to have a mellow weekend party or an all-out bash, this Pineapple Ginger Daiquiri will offer a delicious taste of the tropics. The fresh Ginger Syrup just may become a favorite way to dress up ice cream, to sweeten iced tea or make your own Italian sodas.

Pineapple Ginger Daiquiri

Makes 1 cocktail

2 ounces Mount Gay Eclipse Rum

1 ounce fresh pineapple juice

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce Ginger Syrup (see note)

candied ginger, for garnish

Melissa’s sugar cane swizzle stick, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the rum, pineapple juice, lime juice and ginger syrup. Shake until well chilled. Pour rocks and all into a short cocktail glass. Garnish with a piece of candied ginger threaded on a sugar cane swizzle stick.

Note: To make the ginger syrup, mix 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1/2 cup sliced fresh ginger root. Let simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. The syrup will be fragrant and slightly golden. Let cool and pour into a clean glass bottle. The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for 30 days.

The Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Aperol Fizz

The brilliant orange Aperol Fizz made a lovely aperitif, Italian-style.
The brilliant orange Aperol Fizz makes a lovely aperitif, Italian-style. (Photo by Maria Hunt)

I just spent a week learning all about selecting, tasting and cooking with the best olive oils from the southern Italian region Puglia with the The Awaiting Table Cookery School. Most of the my fellow students came from Denver, led by chef and restaurateur Shelly Steinhaus of Bella Bistro. The class took place at a the Bacile castle in a little town and each evening we gathered in the large kitchen to prepare dinner as a group.

One evening Tim, came to the kitchen with a bottle of Aperol, one of my favorite Italian liqueurs. Aperol has a pleasant bittersweet orange flavor with hints of herbs; it’s part of a vast category of liqueurs called amaros or bitters. Sometimes they’re sipped after dinner to settle the stomach, but they’re often used as aperitifs to help stimulate the appetite.

Tim and Shelly were served this sparkling bittersweet cocktail called the Aperol Fizz when they checked into their hotel in Naples and wanted to share it with the rest of us. I couldn’t have been more pleased. It’s similar to the popular Italian drink called the Aperol Spritz or Sprizz which is made with club soda, but I like the extra bittersweet tang from the tonic water.

Aperol Fizz
Makes 1 cocktail
2.5 ounces Aperol
2 ounces prosecco
splash tonic water

In a rocks glass with a few ice cubes, add the Aperol. Top with the prosecco and finish with a splash of tonic water.

Sparkling Ideas for Your Summer Vacation: Mumm Napa’s Photo Exhibit

Mumm Napa exhibit of work by LA Times photograher George Rose.
A mature Cary Grant (sigh) is one of the Hollywood photos included in a Mumm Napa exhibit of work by LA Times photograher George Rose.The exhibit is on display through Aug. 21.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit some of my favorite sparkling wine houses in Napa and Sonoma counties. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting special events at some of the picturesque sparkling wine houses in northern California in case you’re looking or a delicious and fun drive-cation (is that a word?) this summer.

Mumm Napa is presenting a special photo exhibit called “Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Other Perversities” in their Fine Art Photography Gallery through Aug. 21. The black and white exhibit features the work of George Rose, a photographer with the LA Times who chronicled Hollywood life and pop culture in the 1970s and 80s.

The photographs, which are taken from Rose’s new book that shows everything from movie premieres to mud wrestling matches, includes photos of celebs including Jack Nicholson, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Keith Richards, Ronald Reagan, Mary Tyler Moore, and Bill Cosby.

Rose’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek and USA Today, and he was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while at the Los Angeles Times. Rose is also a recipient of a World Press Award for one of the few still photos ever taken of an earthquake as it was actually occurring.

While you’re at Mumm, you might also want to stop for a glass of bubbly in their beautiful tasting room or go for a stroll in the garden. One of my favorites is their Blanc de Noirs, which was recently rechristened as a Brut Rosé. The wine has lots of black cherry and strawberry notes from the pinot noir and is delicious with grilled meats of any kind.