Though I classify myself as very much a beer and wine guy, sometimes it is nice to have a cocktail out on the balcony before dinner, especially as the year gets on toward summer. As far as cocktails go, I am quite the master of the ampersand, and can whip up the best Gin & Tonic, Rum & Coke, or Scotch & Soda you've ever had! Beyond these, however, my skills and knowledge as a mixologist are shamefully slim.
'Course, the main reason behind this is a lack of practice. Like most you out there, I don't stock a full bar of obscure liqueurs, nor do I keep a fridge full of tropical juices, nor a full compliment of miniature umbrellas and swords, which exempts me from the more charming warm-weather cocktails. In addition to taking up a lot of room, that stuff is expensive, and decidedly less than versatile (you'd have to drink an unwise number of Harvey Wallbangers to justify a bottle of Galliano). Financial and spatial constraints have limited my fancy cocktail consumption to the bar, which is not typically the ideal space for sippin' on a Daiquiri or Pina Colada.
Recently, though, a friend of mine introduced me to an easy, tasty new cocktail of which I'd never heard: the Brandy Sangaree. In truth, the Sangaree predates the cocktail by about a hundred years, and with the Flip, was one of the favorite thirst quenchers of colonial America. As might be expected of such an ancient drink, the ingredients are very common, and the recipe is a cinch:
Dissolve powdered sugar in 1 tsp water.
Add brandy and pour into a highball glass over ice cubes.
Fill with carbonated water and stir.
Float port on top, sprinkle lightly with nutmeg, and serve.
The result is a light, slightly buttery, and pleasantly spicy concoction that, while refreshing, has all those delicious flavors usually associated with winter. Though slightly sweet, the port and nutmeg really take center stage, making this drink appropriate on its own, with a selection of fresh fruit, or even matched with strong cheese and charcuterie. Though ideally enjoyed out in the sun (what isn't?), the Brandy Sangaree also makes for a comforting indoor drink, and is great for whiling away these dismal days of monsoon season.
Perhaps most appealing of all about the Sangaree is its modest price tag; even though I sprang for the Christian Brothers VSOP (cuz I'm classy like that), the total ingredient cost was less than $30, and should be enough to keep me well stocked in colonial goodness for months to come. Compare that to a similar supply of even modestly priced pink or white wine, and there simply is no contest.
The standard recipe takes well to modification; for my part, I enjoy a little more port in my Sangaree, and go quite a bit lighter on the soda. Sangaree also covers a wide range of other ingredients, and a similar cocktail can be made with gin, scotch, or bourbon as a base. Whatever you do, though, don't skip the nutmeg; having tried the drink with and without, I've found that the spice really pulls the whole drink together.
If you've got your own go-to drinks (whether by-the-book or all Macgyvered up), please post them in the comments below. I would love to hear what others are doing to keep sauced in the summer!