The Drinks of Summer

There is some seriously glorious weather outside today.  High 70s, slight breeze, low humidity.  It’s a day to be spent outdoors.  Which is why I am writing this post from the deck with a cold beer at hand.  And not just any beer mind you, but perhaps my favorite summer-specific beer of all time.

I’m fairly open minded when it comes to trying beer (aside from most of the offerings from Budweiser, Coors and Miller), so I have no aversion to trying a beer that is a little outside the normal.  So when I saw Shiner’s Ruby Redbird the first time, I was intrigued.  Shiner holds a special place in my heart.  Going to college in Texas, my formative drinking years included exposure to such Texas brews as Lonestar, St. Arnolds, and Shiner.  Shiner, at an extra $1.50 a six pack, was one of the “nice” beers to be had.  The original Shiner Bock is a decent beer, but honestly I think I drink it more for nostalgia than for the taste.  But their summer seasonal is something different altogether.

Described on the label as “BEER BREWED WITH TEXAS RUBY RED GRAPEFRUIT JUICE AND WITH GINGER AND NATURAL FLAVORS ADDED”, I was curious as to how it would play together.  I love grapefruit, and ginger provides a nice refreshment… but in a beer?  Turns out it works great.  It’s an incredibly crisp and refreshing beverage.  The ginger note comes through first: like a cool fire the grows on your tongue.  Your mouth feels like it’s waking up, and then the acidity of the grapefruit kicks in, providing a bit of tartness.  Finally, the solid beer-bitter hops finish the taste, rounding out a very nice beer to enjoy on a hot day.  While it’s definitely a less traditional style, it definitely still tastes like a beer – this is no beer-graprefruit shandy.

The warmer weather also means that the venerable Gin and Tonic is making a more frequent appearance in my drink rotation.  And while I enjoy this classic three note chord of gin, tonic and lime all year round, it just seems to taste better while staring at the sunset on a warm summer evening.  Plus the quinine in the tonic means that it’s medicinal, and it should be consumed frequently to ward off malaria.  Now I’m a Tanquery fan myself, and Tanquery 10 if someone else is footing the bill.  Best mixed strong with lots of ice in a nice tall glass the way the British did as they conquered most of the world.

And then there’s the house special.  Our signature cocktail.  The Lemon-Basil Gimlet.  Quite possibly the best cocktail I’ve ever had.  It starts out with a sugar syrup flavored by steeping it with scads of basil and lemon peel.  Then mix the syrup 1:1:1 with fresh lemon juice and gin.  Serve cold.  Imbibe frequently.  The floral herbaciousness of the syrup really works well with the range of botanicals used in most english style dry gins, and the lemon juice gives it a refreshing tartness on a hot day.  Give it a shot, I bet you’ll love it.

Lemon-Basil Syrup (from Gourmet July 2007)

  • 4 cups packed fresh basil sprigs
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 9 x (4″ x 1″) strips lemon peel

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let stand at room temperature, covered, 1 hour, then transfer to an airtight container and chill until cold, about 1 hour. Strain syrup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids.

In related news: once the basil plants get some new leaves, I plan on giving this a shot with some house-infused basil vodka!

So grab you favorite warm weather drink and head outside!

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