Thirsty Thursday: A boozy back-to-school

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The beginning of the school year is always a great time to have fun with friends: you may not have seen them too frequently over the summer break – or at all, if you’re living through a pandemic – and you’re all enjoying what little time you have before your schedules inevitably get busier. For this author, there’s no better way to welcome senior year than spend time with friends I haven’t seen in a year and a half and enjoy some drinks while we (safely) catch up. Sure, heading to Ted’s and Huskies are time-honored senior year traditions for those who are of legal age; however, we wanted to avoid the syllabus week crowds and be in an environment where we could actually hear each other talk.

Fortunately, some of our (unprofessional) mixologist friends were willing to host us and try out some drinks that would fit in any respectable bar menu: blackberry basil mojitos, pear cinnamon margaritas and a classic pitcher of red sangria. If your motivation is still high at this point in the semester, consider whipping up these drinks for yourself and your 21-and-over friends.

“If you don’t have a jigger to measure out your ingredients, one ounce is equal to two tablespoons,” this week’s Thirsty Thursday drink maker advised. A jigger is an hourglass-shaped measuring device that is used to make cocktails.

Blackberry Basil Mojitos

Recipe makes one drink

Ingredients

1-1.5 ounce of blackberry syrup (use the equation to any simple syrup – see below)

4-5 basil leaves (can substitute with mint)

2 ounces of Bombay Bramble Blackberry and Raspberry Gin (or any gin of your choice)

½ ounce lime juice

1 cup of ice

2-3 ounces Lime Seltzer 

  1. In a shaker, muddle the basil leaves and blackberry syrup together until pulverized
  2. Add lime juice, gin and ice and shake for 10-12 seconds
  3. Pour into a glass (no straining) and top with club soda
  4. Stir and garnish with mint leaves and fresh blackberries (optional)

“I don’t have a muddler so I just used the handle of a wood rolling pin, but any kind of wooden apparatus will work like a wooden spoon, dowel, etc.,” the Thirsty Thursday drink maker said.

Although fruity drinks are dangerously delicious, I’ve become a big fan of refreshing drinks or those with herbal ingredients – anything with ginger, cucumber, basil or mint catches my eye. The mojitos were right up my alley: refreshing with the basil, crisp with the seltzer – but not too fizzy – and balanced out with the lime and gin. The blackberry added richness and fruitiness to the drink and is a perfect flavor with gin.

Pear Cinnamon Margaritas

Recipe makes one drink

Ingredients

1 ounce of Los Cabos Tequila (or any silver tequila of your choice)

2 ounce of pear juice or pear nectar

1 ounce of cinnamon simple syrup (use the equation to any simple syrup – see below)

½ ounce of lime juice

1 cup of ice

  1. Add tequila, pear nectar, simple syrup and ice to a shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds
  2. Pour into a glass
  3. Garnish with some ground cinnamon (optional)

“I didn’t have pear nectar so I just used a can of Del Monte No Sugar Added Canned Pears that I found at Price Chopper and blended it for a similar consistency,” the Thirsty Thursday drink maker said. “Store any remaining pear nectar in the fridge for up to two weeks.”

As much as I love margaritas, some of them fall into the trap of being sugary, too concentrated in flavor or too strong. Honestly, this issue occurs with all drinks, but margaritas are so common that it’s bound to happen more often. Who would have thought that a pear cinnamon flavor would perfectly balance out these boozy blunders?

Pear and cinnamon themselves naturally work together in my head, considering how similar pear and apple are to one another. The pear is a bit more subdued than apple would be, which makes for a lighter margarita. As you will learn, I love cinnamon, and it was a unique flavor pairing in a margarita, to which I am normally accustomed to having more intense, tropical flavors. The drink tasted like fresh applesauce with a tang and spice, which I didn’t mind at all. This combination seems like a fitting fall flavor to try as the weather turns.

Need to make some simple syrup? Our Thirsty Thursday drink maker provides her very own recipe and tips below.

The equation to any simple syrup

1 cup of sugar + 1 cup water + flavoring = simple syrup

  1. Add one cup of water in a pot
  2. Once the water is steaming, add any flavorings
  3. Occasionally stir until the water comes to a slight boil
  4. Add sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and simmer until it becomes the desired consistency
  5. Keep in an airtight jar or container and store. 

If you use aromatics or dry herbs in your simple syrup, store it at room temperature. If you use fresher herbs or fruits, store in the fridge.

According to this week’s Thirsty Thursday drink maker, added flavors can include fresh or frozen fruit, aromatics – cinnamon, green chili, ginger, etc. – or herbs – mint, basil, elderflower, etc.

“For fruit, I generally use about one or two handfuls,” they said. “[With] aromatics, I will be cautious since a little can go a long way. Think one stick of cinnamon, two or three green chillies or a small bulb of ginger. For herbs, I mainly use the leaves, since sometimes, the stems can be nitter. I’ll use about 10 to 15 leaves per batch.

Considering they are a college student, this week’s Thirsty Thursday drink maker always aims for the balance between affordability and good taste. Otherwise, what’s the point of putting in the effort of crafting a cocktail?

“I try to reuse things as much as I can and try to make as many different types of drinks as I can with what I have on hand,” they said. “Also, don’t ever buy syrups! Just make them and save yourself a bunch of money!”

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