By Charlie Wohlrab
Labor Day. . .the bittersweet holiday. On one hand, it is a three-day week-end with picnics and barbecues; on the other hand, it is the unofficial end of summer. But one thing is for sure. By the time Labor Day rolls around there is still time for a few summer cocktails before autumn and football season begin.
Might I suggest a few cocktails to mark this bittersweet holiday? First, the Passion Fruit Margarita. I was introduced to this drink at a beach bar in the Caribbean. And while I must admit that everything tastes good at a beach bar in the Caribbean I was successful in replicating this fruity drink at home. And I must admit. This cocktail tastes pretty good.
Passion Fruit Margarita
• 2 ounces Passion Fruit Juice
• 2 ounces Tequila
• ½ ounce Triple Sec
Add ingredients to a blender filled with ½ cup crushed ice and blend until smooth. Pour into margarita glasses, (you might as well use them one more time before they spend the winter in storage) and top with a lime slice. Some people like to salt the rim of the glass. I don’t, but if you do, simply rim the glass with a lime wedge and then dip and swirl the glass in a saucer with a thin layer of salt.
A quick word about passion fruit juice- this may be somewhat difficult to find in some locales. I go to a family grocery that caters to the surrounding neighborhood, and I can find it there—sometimes—so when they have it, I buy it to keep a container on hand. Also, my margarita glasses do not spend the entire winter in the cabinet. During those short, dark days of winter I will have the occasional margarita to remind me that summer is in the future.
Second, the vodka and tonic. As with many drinks that use gin, you can substitute vodka. My wife prefers vodka, so vodka it is. This is a fine summertime drink with an interesting history. In the early 19th century, the British who lived in India would take a dose of quinine to ward off malaria. quinine is very bitter so they flavored it with sugar, water, and lime to create the “tonic.” To improve compliance, they added gin, which also has an interesting history.
Gin was created in Holland in the 17th century and was called “genever,” which is Dutch for Juniper. People were distilling various herbs and spices believed to have medicinal properties, and Juniper was one along with others used to create the genever. During the 30 Years War, the British “discovered” genever and gin was born.
Vodka and Tonic
• 1 and ½ to 2 ounces Vodka
• Lime Wedge
Fill an 8 ounce glass with ice. Squeeze the lime over the ice and drop in the glass. Add some tonic, the gin, and the top with tonic. I like to add the tonic in two parts to get a more uniform cocktail.
Two points: First, I always wash my limes or any fruit I will add to a cocktail to remove whatever is on the rind; and second, I always look for a “tonic” that actually contains quinine. However, the amount is so small you would have to drink gallons to ward off malaria, but it is a matter of principle.
Happy Labor Day.
Charlie Wohlrab is a mixologist whose motto, “Drinking. . .more than a hobby” has been topmost in his mind since he first started tending bar while getting his Pharmacy degree. Now retired, when he’s not restoring his older home in New Jersey, he’s made it his goal to elevate the experience of having a daily cocktail from something mundane to something more exciting. He is now Harrisburg Magazine’s official bartender in residence.
My recipes are like my opinions,” says Wohlrab. “They continue to be refined as I try new products and work with old standbys.” Currently working on a book about cocktails, Wolhrab welcomes comments from his readers. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.