By David Alan
If there’s anything to be said about Austin’s long summer, it’s that we have an abundance of outdoor activities. We heap limitless praise on our springs, lakes and barbecues, and we hold more races, festivals and other excuses for street closures than most cities can sustain. Not all of us, however, are athletic enough for the Danskin Women’s Triathlon, or liberated enough for a day of sunning at Hippie Hollow. Some of us are more inclined to celebrate Central Texas’s seemingly endless days of agreeable weather in a bibulous capacity, focusing on yet another glorious benefit of summer: the outdoor cocktail.
Begin this patio-tippling season with the star of Texas’s summer potable produce, the peach. The peach is so prevalent come late spring that it becomes almost a parody of itself, like a tourist attraction in fuzzy miniature. When you get past the hype (and the long lines at the farmers market), though, and finally get your mouth on a juicy peach, it’s truly transcendent. Some might even be transported back to an agrarian childhood, perhaps one they’ve never really experienced but only fantasized about. Or perhaps, if you’re like me, you quickly move past the daydreaming and straight to the blender.
For economical reasons, I prefer to buy the “seconds”—peaches that have been pecked by a bird or suffered some other aesthetic injury. They’re often overly ripe and therefore perfect for extracting the juicy nectar that’s necessary for cocktail preparation. Freeze whole slices or peach chunks for use in frozen margaritas, or mash extremely ripe peaches through a sieve and save their juice for shaken cocktails and pitcher drinks.
Summer is also time for locally grown melons. If the last time you enjoyed the combination of watermelon and booze was at a frat party, perhaps it’s time to revisit this refreshing and versatile summer fruit in a watermelon mojito—and now that we have Treaty Oak rum, this thirst quencher can be made almost entirely from local ingredients. The juices of local cantaloupes, honeydews and cucumbers are also well suited to seasonal mixology.
Pitcher drinks are the best way to make summer cocktails because they allow for easy refills and are more forgiving to make—just keep adjusting the flavor until it tastes good to you. Most cocktail recipes are a guideline, an inspiration, not a hard-and-fast rule. If it tastes good to you, then you made it right. Happy mixing!