Summer fruits (or vegetables) make great cocktails

I would quote the lyrics from the song “Summertime, Summertime” the 1958 hit single by The Jamies, made most famous perhaps by the California surf duo Jan and Dean, but quoting song lyrics is problematic due to licensing requirements. Luckily (or unluckily, perhaps) there is no such prohibition for cocktail names or, thankfully, the drinks themselves. Summer is definitely the season for fresh fruit: peaches, nectarines, oranges, melons, berries, are all now available, are all in season, and all of them make great drinks.

By now we all also know that tomatoes are not vegetables but are classified as fruits, being the mature ovary of a plant and containing seeds. But did you know the same can be said for cucumbers and peppers? And while a watermelon is definitely a fruit, it really is classified as a special type of berry called a pepo. Isn’t taxonomy fun? Just wait until the lawyers get involved in all of that. But before that happens, these quasi-fruits, pseudo-vegetables, make great drinks too, sometimes in combination with their better known fruit brethren.

Thankfully, whether vegetable or fruit, the addition of fortification makes the consumption of either that much more pleasurable. So, with that thought in mind we’ve taken the liberty of assembling a few non copyrighted classics here, fruit, vegetable, whatever, all localized for your consumption.

Cucumber Pink Lemon Drop

1 ½ ounces Square One Organic Cucumber vodka

¾ ounce good quality triple sec (Cointreau, Combier, Naranja, Citronage)

1 ounce fresh squeezed pink lemon juice (pink lemons are available at many high end grocery stores and have pink flesh)

½ ounce simple syrup

1 pink lemon wheel

1 English or Armenian (thin skinned) cucumber wheel

Pink sugar granules for rimming (such as Wilton’s)

Combine first four ingredients in a shaker glass with ice and shake until ice cold. Strain into a chilled sugar dab-rimmed* cocktail glass and garnish by floating wheels on top, preferably cucumber on top of lemon.           

*Dabbing the rim with a thumb sized spot of sugar is all the rage these days. Wet with a piece of citrus and then dip and shake gently to remove excess.

Watermelon Margarita

1 ½ ounces Santo Puro tequila

¾ ounce good quality triple sec (Cointreau, Combier, Naranja, Citronage)

1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice*

1 ½ ounces watermelon puree**

½ ounce agave nectar

1 lime wheel

Combine all five ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Shake to chill and then strain over new ice into a partially sugar rimmed serving glass. Garnish with lime wheel.

*Fully ripe standard limes (Persian) are actually yellow and have a less acidic taste. If you can find them, they are delicious. Persian lemons are also yellow and taste much like Meyer lemons.

**To make watermelon puree, cut the skin off a seedless watermelon making sure to remove all the white layer too. Put chunks into a blender and process until liquified. Puree can be made a few hours ahead, but keeping the puree overnight tends to result in a vaguely “soapy” aftertaste. The puree will separate, so stir or shake before making drinks to keep it consistent.

Blackberry Summer Smash

1 ½ ounces Batiste white rhum

4 large washed blackberries

1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

1 ounce simple syrup

1 splash soda water

Four leaves of fresh mint

Two leaves fresh basil

Flowering top of either basil or mint

Smash blackberries (reserving one for garnish) in the bottom of a mixing glass until broken up but not pulverized. Add ice, rhum, lime juice and simple syrup. Tear basil and mint leaves into quarter sized pieces and place on top. Shake a few times to combine. Pour entire mixture into serving glass, top with soda, stir gently and garnish with flowering herb and reserved blackberry.


2 ounces Hanson Organic Habanero vodka

1 ounce tomato water*

Fresh ground black pepper

Combine vodka and tomato water in a mixing glass with ice and shake until cold. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a small dusting of fresh ground black pepper.

The Bloody Mary is a great drink, but “tomato juice” is not really a juice. It is a thinned out cooked sauce. Tomato water is a juice (a fruit juice no less) and as such is much lighter and fresher tasting then the canned or jarred version. Tomato water is certainly – taste wise – worth the extra trouble.

* To make tomato water:

5 large very ripe tomatoes cored and chopped**

1 clove peeled garlic

1 small peeled shallot

Pinch of salt

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Line a colander with cheesecloth and let mixture filter until all liquid has settled through strainer, gently smashing and squeezing with the back of a spoon. This can take a couple of hours. The goal is to have just the liquid and not the solids. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

**Note: Any color tomato can be used. But it is best to use all one color for consistency.