16 July 2010

Recipe: "The Cuke"

This is adapted from a recipe that was entered in a summer 2006 New York Times cocktail contest.

Have a large pitcher at hand.

I love pitcher drinks for summer, for parties, and especially for summer parties.  They're invariably cold, refreshing and not terribly alcoholic - and you can make them in advance. 

Peel and VERY thinly slice at least 3 cucumbers.  Drop them in the pitcher.

The original recipe only calls for 2 cucumbers and calls for you not to peel them.  Wrong on both counts. The cucumbers become a tasty bonus snack.

Thinly slice 3 limes.  Drop them in the pitcher too.

Add several tablespoons of fresh squeezed lime juice to the pitcher.

The original recipe says to juice 3 limes, but you really need to do this to taste, because limes don't produce a consistent amount of juice nor do they have consistent acidity.  We've adopted the practice of purchasing a bag of limes just about every week and then squeezing them all at once and storing the juice in the fridge in a plastic squeeze bottle so we have plenty of fresh lime juice on hand.  You'd be surprised at how much use you'll get out of it.  Also, remember to microwave the limes for about 15 seconds before squeezing them (or roll them vigorously on the counter) to help them express more juice.

Add about a cup of mint leaves (no stems) to the pitcher.

This is also an approximation - if you're not big on mint, add less.  If you love mint, add more.  If your mint plants are going crazy, add LOTS more.  Not that I would know anything about that, of course.

Add about 1/2 c. of simple syrup to the pitcher.

The original recipe calls for straight sugar and then encourages you to muddle all the above ingredients. But it's hard to dissolve the sugar fully unless you muddle really energetically, and then the lovely cucumber slices end up all mashed, which is appealing neither to the eye nor the palate.

Add 2 c. gin to the pitcher. Shake or stir gently.

The original recipe calls for Hendricks, but there's so much going on in this drink taste-wise, I wouldn't waste Hendricks - use a simpler, less expensive gin like Tanqueray or Blue Coat or Bombay.  You do need to stir or shake (if you can seal the lid on your pitcher) to mix all the ingredients, but do it gently to preserve the yummy cucumber slices.  The original recipe also says that you can use vodka, but why would you want to do something like that?

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Taste and adjust ingredients.

You want to let the flavors blend.  After that, you'll want to taste to see if you'd like more of any of the elements listed above - lime, cucumber, mint, sugar.

To serve, fill a highball glass with ice.  Use a bar spoon to fish out some cucumber and lime slices into your glass.  Fill glass at least half way (or a little more for a less-strong drink) with cold club soda.  Fill the rest of the way with the gin mixture, straining it as it goes into the glass.  Grab a straw, sit back and enjoy.

The original recipe gets all wacky with garnishes, but that's really defeating the purpose of the pitcher drink.  Chef Spouse observes that all tall drinks over ice need to be served with straws in the summer. No particular reason other than it just seems right.  Nibble the yummy cucumber slices as you drink and congratulate yourself on getting part of your Recommended Daily Allowance of vegetables during cocktail hour.


Liam O'Malley said...

This looks great. I love a cold gin drink in the summer, and I love cucumber in pretty much anything - so refreshing. Been having a couple slices in all my gin and tonics lately, so I'll definitely try this one to take it up a notch or two.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of thin cucumber slices as a martini (gin, of course) garnish, particularly a Hendricks martini, as cucumber is one of its contributing botanicals.