I’d like to introduce you to Joy Flanagan. She’s the best bartender (and it’s not just me saying that) at one of my favorite local bars. Armsby Abbey, in Worcester, MA serves a steady stream of original and interesting dishes made with seasonal local ingredients that are always great — and the ever-changing cocktail menu is similarly delicious. I was inspired to ask her to do this after our recent annual barn party (over father’s day weekend). Facing an overwhelming harvest, we served up pitchers of fresh-from-our-garden strawberry sauce and an impromptu daiquiri bar was born when just hours before the event, I fb’d my guests to bring bottles of tequila and rum. More than eight large pitchers of strawberry sauce were consumed; our simple strawberry sauce + booze + the occasional lime recipe was clearly a hit, but in the aftermath (and as I nursed a tiny hangover at Armsby’s delicious brunch the next day) I was hankering for something a bit more civilized. Joy’s drinks are always sophisticated and thoughtful and I can’t wait to learn from her and upgrade my more crude bartending skills with fresh pickings. In this series Joy is going to be sharing some of her original recipes for cocktails that feature the best of the season and this, the Strawberry Spritz, is the first.
I grew up in a town whose pride & joy was the annual Strawberry Festival hosted at our local Grange. There were fiddlers and banjo pickers, ball toss games, and a frog jumping contest; but the best part was the strawberry shortcake served up to the masses! I still make strawberry shortcake from scratch every year because strawberries are a sign of the start of warm weather and the arrival of summer! Desserts are a no brainer, but those little ruby gems make a mean drink too. At the bar, we chop off the tops and puree the berries in a blender, adding a little water as necessary to make sure it gets down to a nice sauce consistency. If your strawberry patch is overflowing with fruit, you can certainly make a big batch of puree and freeze some for use later in the summer! A favorite cocktail that I came up with recently made use of the very obvious and delicious pairing of strawberries and rhubarb.
Philadelphia-based Art In The Age is a company that believes in empowering artists and uses sales of their assertive 80 proof spirits to donate to that cause. Their “Rhubarb Tea” features an elixir of beets, carrots, lemons, petitgrain, cardamom, pure cane sugar, and of course rhubarb. All organically certified – it’s tangy, sweet, and completely delicious.
Aperol is an Italian aperitif made of bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona among other ingredients. Both of these spirits compliment the strawberries in the Strawberry Spritz.
1 oz. Art in the Age Rhubarb Tea
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Strawberry Puree
.25 oz (or to taste) Simple Syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
Shake all ingredients and strain into a large wine glass or a pint mason jar filled with ice. Top with 3 oz. of soda water. Drop in a lemon wheel for garnish.
Light and refreshing, the strawberry spritz is a perfect cocktail to usher in the summer season!