Asking for a strawberry drink in a serious craft cocktail bar can take some courage.
The red fruit doesn’t have the mixological credibility of stalwarts like limes, lemons, cherries and oranges or even upstarts like cucumbers and sage. One reason for this: There just aren’t that many classic classics which call for strawberries.
Even worse, historically when strawberries have been used it was often in sugary, faux-tiki concoctions. That’s a real shame, since fresh strawberries can be a wonderful cocktail ingredient adding more than just a one-dimensional sweet note.
But don’t just take my word for it. We’re in strawberry season and in addition to making strawberry shortcake and other decadent desserts, you should save a few berries for fixing drinks.
One of my favorite ways to use strawberries is to pair them with hot chilies.
There are few drinks that do that as well as the Fresa Brava, which was created by legendary New York bartender Phil Ward when he worked at landmark bar Death & Co, and is featured in the bar’s eponymous cocktail book.
His concoction combines a muddled strawberry with jalapeño-infused tequila, herbaceous Yellow Chartreuse and lemon juice. He perfectly balances the heat of the chilies with the sweetness of the strawberry, which makes it incredibly easy to drink.
Contributed by Phil Ward
1 Strawberry2 oz Jalapeño-infused Siembra Azul Blanco Tequila*.75 oz Yellow Chartreuse.75 oz Lemon juice.5 Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
Gently muddle a strawberry in a shaker. Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake and then double strain into a coupe.
*Jalapeño-Infused Siembra Azul Blanco Tequila
4 Jalapeño chiles1 bottle (750 mL) Siembra Azul Blanco Tequila
In a container, combine the ribs and seeds from 4 jalapeño chiles and the chopped flesh of half of a jalapeño with one 750-ml bottle of Siembra Azul Blanco Tequila and stir well. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, tasting frequently so you can stop the infusion when the heat level is to your liking. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
In addition to spice, strawberry also works well with peach, ginger and, surprisingly, bourbon.
Mark Noonan’s drink served at tony East Hampton’s Highway Restaurant & Bar combines all three in a quaffable tipple. It’s a great drink to make after visiting your local farmers’ market if you can buy ripe peaches and strawberries.
Contributed by Mark Noonan
1 Strawberry2 oz Breckenridge Bourbon.75 oz Pureed peach.75 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
Muddle a strawberry in a shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients and fill with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with one large ice cube. Garnish with a strawberry slice.
While there isn’t a huge selection of traditional strawberry cocktails you can certainly add the fruit to some existing classics. The new edition of the The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book by Frank Caiafa, the bar manager of the hotel’s famous Peacock Alley, includes a tasty recipe for a berry version of a traditional Gin Fizz.
It’s ideal for a brutally hot spring or summer afternoon. Once ripe raspberries start showing up at the farmers’ market you can easily swap them into this recipe. You just may not want to drink anything else until the fall.
Contributed by Frank Caiafa
1.5 oz Club soda, chilled2 oz Beefeater Gin or Tanqueray Old Tom Gin1 oz Fresh lemon juice2 Strawberries.5 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
Muddle the strawberries and simple syrup in a shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the club soda, and fill with ice. Shake and strain into a Collins glass. Top with club soda.