By now, most of us know the benefits of eating local, in-season produce: the nutrient density, the environmental benefit of not traveling thousands of miles to our plates, and supporting our local farmers. With the weather warming up and the farmers markets opening, let’s talk about our favorite warm weather Minnesotan produce – and there’s no better way to celebrate summer than incorporating them into classic cocktails for a refreshing take on our favorite drinks.
Strawberries hit their peak growing season in Minnesota during June and July. Does anything compare to strawberry picking on a hot Saturday? This summer staple is delicious fresh or frozen, or both at the same time.
The Daiquiri itself has a rich history. Named after the Cuban beach that Americans landed on during the Spanish-American War, the rum-based drink has been enjoyed by many, from pirates to Ernest Hemingway. In the 18th century, the British navy passed a law that provided each sailor with one gallon of beer per day. However, as their routes expanded further and further away from home, closer to South America, a more concentrated beverage was necessitated for the men to get their fill, and rum was chosen. Eventually, the addition of citrus juice to the alcohol was introduced. This was in part to water it down, but as the mixture gained popularity, the naval officers realized that the various citrus juiced in the liquor helped prevent scurvy.
Luckily for us, gone are the days of the Daiquiri consisting of only rum and lemon juice. Naturally, the most popular variation of the simple staple is made even more refreshing with the addition of slushy, sweet strawberries. Frozen strawberries can be combined with those fresh off the vine in the blender for a perfect warm-weather pick-me-up.
Raspberries are in their prime in July, warm from the sun, straight off of the vine. Serve them on ice cream, in a smoothie, or, for the grown-ups, in a raspberry Tom Collins.
The Tom Collins is an inherently jovial drink. Although it is usually regarded as a spring beverage to celebrate April Fool’s Day, this cocktail is just as refreshing during the middle of summer. However, we can’t neglect to tell the story of how it got its name. It came about thanks to the alleged Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874, where bar patrons across America came together to perpetuate the myth of a fictional barfly – named Tom Collins, of course – who hopped from bar to bar in seemingly every city and town, talking trash about the victim of the prank. To execute it, you’d ask your (preferably already inebriated) friend if they’d heard about Tom Collins, a man at the bar down the road, and how he had been bad-mouthing them. Like a good friend, you’d offer to head to the neighboring bar to find the slanderer, only to hear he wasn’t there. Instead, the bartender, most likely after having a laugh, would serve them the concoction in question: a citrusy, refreshing gin classic.
For our fruitier take, nothing complements the lemon like adding fresh raspberries (or even raspberry jam) into the shaker. Follow it up by garnishing with raspberries, either floating with ice or on a toothpick. With the addition of the berry goodness, its name changes to Raspberry Collins.
Tomatoes are delicious, versatile, and packed with vitamin C. Their peak growing time in Minnesota is in August, but they are available fresh in the Midwest both earlier and later. The farmer’s market star is a staple in plenty of summer recipes: burgers, salads, and gazpachos are all made infinitely more delicious when the tomatoes are ripe and fresh. And, of course, our year-round favorite goes to the next level when garnished with the perfect wedge of tomato to pair with the celery stalk: the Bloody Mary.
While the Bloody Mary is an ideal mid-day option any time of year, there is nothing quite like having a Bloody Mary with brunch on the patio in the summertime. Savory and sometimes spicy, the Sunday morning sip originated in Paris, France during the United States’ prohibition era. With prohibition came waves of American bartenders moving to other parts of the world, especially Europe. This resulted in their exposure to a liquor that was previously unpopular in American markets: vodka.
A bartender named Ferdinand Petiot created the first iteration of the Bloody Mark while working at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. It was initially not much more than tomato juice and vodka, a novelty drink of sorts. However, with its evolution towards including more savory ingredients and interesting garnishes, it has since earned its place as a classic cocktail. For a homemade play on more decorative garnishes that have become popular as of late, try cherry tomatoes on a skewer. They’re even better if they’re from your backyard.