Staring into the fridge last week, I realized I had assembled something of a “summer survival kit.” You can, too. Lay in these staples and be the gathering place for a quick summer cool down.
Chilled wines: Chilled wines are refreshing, but grow even more so when the flavors are less sweet to tart. Rose is an obvious choice and tends to satisfy the red wine drinkers. Consider the Aussie blend from Turkey Flat Vineyards or the aromatic French blend, Routas Ros Rouviere. White wines like Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are go–to chillers; don’t overlook affordable French wines like tart Bordeaux Blanc or lip–smacking Picpoul Pinet.
India Pale Ales or Pale Ales: Pale ales are generally less hoppy, but the bitterness and citrus characteristics both beer styles offer refreshing, palate cleansing options for beer drinkers. My current fav IPA is Raging Bitch, a Belgian–influenced beer celebrating the 20th anniversary of Flying Dog Brewery. The tongue–in–cheek, canine–themed labels, with cool artwork by Ralph Steadman, are an entertaining read while you’re sipping away. Raging Bitch adds the smoothness of a yeasty Belgian beer with a hint of smokiness on the finish to the bright hops of classic IPA. Warning, Drink one, then you salivate every time you see the label. Thanks Pavlov!
Other hopped choices: Dogfish 60 Minute, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.
Kentucky bourbon: Even master distillers of Kentucky bourbon admit they keep they spirits in the fridge. The sweet, caramel notes of Kentucky bourbon lends itself to be consumed neat, but chilled bourbon added to ice doesn’t suffer from the melt down – and watered down flavor. For refreshing summer cocktails like mint juleps or whiskey sours, staring with chilled booze makes the process easier. Ditto your other spirits: Chilling vodka and gin means you get a super–cold martini!
Instant julep: Mull fresh mint in a highball glass, add cracked ice, then top and stir with four ounces Wild Turkey American Honey liqueur – faster than the Running of the Roses!
Mixes: For the same reason as above, I keep a ready supply of additives: tonic water, soda, whiskey sour and Bloody Mary mixes. Talented mixologists lay in a crop of garnishes like lemons, limes, fresh oranges, cherries and olives (don’t forget the blue cheese stuffed olives!). Likewise, chill some barware like martini and high ball glasses, shakers and pitchers. I do not like a chilled glass for beer – melting frost waters down the beer’s flavor.
Low alcohol beers: A boisterous, high gravity beer in summer is a nap waiting to happen. This is when good hosts turn to low ABV styles like Pilsner or Farmhouse Ale. Some of my trusted session beers (under 5.5 percent ABV) include Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils, Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, Stone Levitation Ale and Terrapin Rye Pale Ale.
Lastly, don’t forget that in summer some folks cut alcohol consumption. Stock fruit juices, sparkling water and, of course, sweet tea to ensure you’re the perfect host!