In Phoenix New Times' 2018 Summer Guide, we're giving you plenty of ways to stay cool for the next several months in metro Phoenix, from jazz and cocktails to spa treatments and frozen delights.
It’s mid-July, the A/C at work is broken, and you’ve had a hard week. Time for happy hour. Whether that spot is your local watering hole or a cozy spot close to the martini shaker in your own home, you deserve a cocktail that will take the edge off your crummy week. What’s your best bet?
Steven Van Haren, a Skurnik Wines rep who peddles fine wine and spirits to restaurants, bars, and retailers in New York City, wants you to give rum the attention it deserves this summer — specifically, rum aged between eight and 10 years.
Van Haren suggests starting with El Dorado 8-Year-Old Cask Aged Rum. “It’s rich, it’s complex, it’s cognac-like, and responds well to ice,” he explains. El Dorado, aged in bourbon casks, has caramel, oak, and butterscotch notes. It’s smooth and complex enough to sip on its own, and shows its character well in a Manhattan.
While aged rums preserve character over time, Jamaican Overproof Rums take it up a notch. Van Haren notes that 50- to 60-proof rums from quality producers such as Rum Fire from Hampden Estate exhibit exceptional balance. “What you’re getting from Rum Fire is the ripeness of sugarcane and the aromatics of esters,” he says. “Your drink won’t change if you add ice.”
What are esters? According to cocktail expert Matt Pietrek, they’re organic compounds that result from alcohol molecules chemically combining with acids in distilled spirits. The variety of combinations produce smells that we can associate with a spirit, such as rum. A bottle of rum has hundreds of different esters, but ethyl acetate is the most dominant one. It has a notably sweet smell.
That pervasive aromatic quality, combined with the funky earthiness of ripe sugarcane, will guarantee you a tasty cocktail that’ll blast through the heat. Overproof rum is also a versatile mixer for Van Haren, who adds half an ounce of the spirit to invigorate many of his cocktails.
Another tip? Van Haren recommends pouring mango or pineapple juice over ice and adding an ounce of overproof rum. “It’s like eating fermented fruit off a tree,” he promises.
While Van Haren has a specific vision for what you should be drinking on ice, Joshua Perry has some foolproof technical advice on how to make your ice better. Perry heads up Nick & Nora Cocktails, a forthcoming consulting company out of central California. He suggests buying silicone cube molds and a handful of whiskey stones.
That’s because filling your glass with standard ice cubes, like the ones we freeze in trays or those dispensed from refrigerators, won’t get the job done. “You want to cool your cocktail with a large ice cube,” he says, “as opposed to 20 smaller ice cubes, because they’ll melt more quickly, leading to faster, unwanted dilution.”
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One large cube in your homemade cocktail will melt at a better pace and more uniformly as you’re drinking, Perry promises. These big rubber ice molds can be had from kitchen specialty shops like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Another innovative and tasty solution for your strawberry daiquiri? “Freeze components of your cocktail as cubes — like the puree, for example,” says Perry. Your cocktail will retain the same flavors as the cube melts.
According to Perry, another smart way to keep drinks chilled is with whiskey stones. These small, granite blocks cost about $25 to $40 in stores or online, and come in packs of six to eight stones. “They act like ice without melting, and you don’t have to use them just for whiskey,” Perry explains. Although the stones eventually reach room temperature, they hold their temperature for a fair amount of time.
Perry says that cold, summer-friendly blended drinks are making a comeback. Cocktail bars around the country have been featuring frosés (slushy rosé), frozen daiquiris and blended Painkillers (rum, pineapple, orange, cream of coconut) on their menus. You can, too, by busting out the blender and whipping up a frozen margarita or piña colada. Because it’s summertime, it’s hot as heck, and you’ve had a long week.